Flames from over 100 candles flickered in the light breeze as Adel and surrounding community members gathered on the south lawn of the Dallas County Courthouse on Monday, Aug. 5.
“We gather here this evening with so many thoughts and emotions. Deeply grieving two more mass killings in our country and another one last week,” said Pastor Julie Higgs, of Grace Lutheran Church, as she led the crowd in a prayer.
Some bowed their heads while others wiped away a stray tear as Higgs talked about emotions felt by community members after the recent shootings in Dayton, Ohio at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, the Gilroy Garlic Festival in California and more.
“Shocked and in pain at the numbers of people who have lost their lives just in this year,” Higgs said. “Many of us angry that it keeps happening again and again. Some of us terrified that it will happen in our community. Some of us motivated to act for change, some of us paralyzed by our lack of knowledge about how to fix such a big problem.”
Though Higgs and other faith, business and community leaders decided to get together to discuss what the community of Adel could do in the wake of the recent mass shootings. Bryce Smith, the owner of the Adel Family Fun Center, said eight to 10 community leaders gathered on Sunday night to plan a candlelight vigil.
Candles were lit on the steps of the Dallas County Courthouse while four balloons waved in the wind. Small candles were handed out to those in the crowd as they gathered on the courthouse lawn.
Some held posters that read “All Humans Are Beautiful” and “How Many More?” while sitting in lawn chairs.
“All of us gathering together because we care. We ache. We want things to be different,” Higgs said during the opening prayer.
The candles were then lit by a few members of the audience and the flames quickly passed through the crowd.
“We invite you to turn to someone, especially someone you don't know, and share the light with them that is the light of the hope that we have this night,” Higgs said.
That message of light and hope is what Higgs, Smith and others wanted the community members to take away from the vigil.
“We want to come together tonight to one, have a visual and remember those lost to gun violence as humans, but also have a conversation with each other about what the next steps are to maybe prevent this,” Smith said.
Liesl Chaplin and Hubert Chaplin, 14, of Adel, stood together while holding two candles as Smith wrapped up the vigil. The pair were glad to see the community organize the event.
“I don't know what the answer is going forward, but the first thing is to gather and communicate,” Liesl Chaplin said.
A few rows up, Bill and Mary Kimber of Adel held their candles in one hand while also holding up part of a poster that read “Honor El Paso, Dayton, Gilroy.”
Bill Kimber was happy to see so many turn out for the community vigil. The pair decided to attend as they spend their winters in Texas.
“We were just shocked by all of the violence,” Mary Kimber said of the recent shooting in El Paso.
The vigil, she said, offered the Adel and surrounding residents a chance to come together as a community to honor those lost during the mass shootings and to look to the future.
“To start a path forward, hopefully, that will ripple into other communities like Adel across the country,” Smith said of the vigil.