For many, tears flowed.
They gathered not only to send support to Nepal — a nation left picking up the pieces of destruction and loss after a magnitude 7.8 earthquake Saturday — but to also lend support to Elon University community members from the affected regions, helpless and far from home.
As the sunlight filtered through the large windows of the Sacred Space in the Numen Lumen Pavilion Monday afternoon, University Chaplain Jan Fuller, along with about 30 other community members, gathered, lit candles and asked, “Why?”
“I want to light a candle today in the search for meaning,” Fuller said as she opened the campus gathering in the aftermath of Saturday’s Nepalese earthquake. “I myself am in a quandary where I don’t understand.”
The country’s worst recorded earthquake in 80 years hit around noon local time about 50 miles northwest of Kathmandu, Nepal. It is in an area that, according to the U.S. Geological Survey, is one of the most seismically hazardous regions on Earth.
It uprooted tens of thousands of Nepalese, destroyed entire villages and killed thousands, but also left shockwaves thousands of miles away at Elon, especially for freshman Surya Shahi, a citizen of Nepal.
Between muffled tears and deep breaths, Shahi spoke before the gathered room of supporters.
“Why am I here?” he asked. “There is always a reason for everything. I’m here because I’m a proud citizen of my country. I’m here because reading about the death toll and the amount of people going homeless pains me. I’m here because I believe and pray.”
Shahi said that people can’t just send prayers and good thoughts at a time like this—people need to do something.
“I urge you to do something about it,” he said. “We need to take action.”
He said at the time that he and Leena Dahal, a sophomore who is also from Nepal and is an assistant news editor for The Pendulum, are still figuring out a way the campus can lend support.
Since then, Elon for Nepal, an organization with the purpose to "unite the Elon Community in an effort to raise necessary funds for aid relief in Nepal," was created.
Elon for Nepal hosted Dumplings for a Difference in Nepal Tuesday night in Moseley Kitchen where they raised more than $330 from donations.
Shahi said people can also act now by donating money.
“Every dollar that we give counts,” Shahi said. “As a university we need to work together to help those in need. We urge you all to help in any way possible.”
Students came to the event in support of Shahi and Dahal.
Taking up a row of seats, sophomores Emily Collins and George Whitaker, along with freshmen Genny Tankosich and Carolina Bohn, all a part of a B.F.A. cohort with Shahi, sat in support of those close and far away.
At the conclusion of the gathering the friends embraced and consoled Shahi.
“I feel so awful that he is so far away,” Collins said. “Not being able to communicate must be extremely hard. All of us want to be here for him to support help and love him in any way we can.”
As of publication, Nepal’s Home Ministry estimates that the quake killed more than 4,000 people in Nepal and another 61 and 25 in neighboring India and China, respectively, while 7,180 people were injured and tens of thousands are estimated to be left homeless.
The earthquake damaged villages — many where a reported 70 percent of houses were completely destroyed — as well as iconic landmarks.
Before Saturday’s earthquake, the Dharahara Tower, built in the 19th century, stood as the tallest building in Nepal at 203 feet. The quake reduced it to rubble, with only the base remaining.
Conor Grennan, the author of Elon’s 2014 common reading book “Little Princes” — a book that centered on an orphanage in the heart of Kathmandu — tweeted Saturday about the children in the orphanage.
“Next Generation #Nepal kids and staff are safe - our buildings stayed upright, thank God. Many are not safe. Please pray for them,” Grennan wrote in a tweet.
He added Monday that the children are sleeping outside and the organization has about two weeks of food and water left.
The destruction was noticed and understood by many on campus.
After prayers and remarks were made at Elon’s gathering, Fuller made closing remarks and advocated for people to continue to support relief efforts.
“We will continue to act,” Fuller said. “We will continue to join Surya and Leena and do whatever we can to help.”