‘Today is to mourn’: Louisville community leaders call for healing and reflection at vigil
In honor of the victims of a mass shooting Monday, city officials and hundreds of people congregated at the Muhammad Ali Center in downtown Louisville. Speakers called for healing and action.
Girls from St. Francis of Assisi Catholic School in Louisville unfurled a bright red banner in front of a citywide prayer vigil Wednesday night. The sign read, in patchwork-fabric letters, “May peace prevail you.”
One of the girls said she prayed for peace for all victims of Monday’s mass shooting, including the shooter.
Speakers at the event, held in honor of the five people killed at the Old National Bank in downtown Louisville, spoke on healing, love and unity. Many called on listeners to convert that pain into action.
“It's important that we take time to acknowledge those losses and what they mean for us as people and as a community,” Mayor Craig Greenberg said. “There will be a time to act, to take steps in honor of those we've lost, and to channel our grief and pain into meaningful action. That day is coming. Today is to mourn.”
One of the vigil’s attendees was Emily Goodlett, who was working in the Old National Bank when the shooting broke out. Goodlett said she is still recovering from that day, and events like the vigil are meaningful.
“I'm feeling really lost and confused and sympathy and remorse and thankfulness because I'm still here,” Goodlett said. “There's not words. … But it’s nice to see the support of the city. It makes a big difference.”
Dr. Muhammad Babar, a community leader who works at University of Louisville Health, asked how many more would pay for “our collective sin of inaction.” He called on national, state and local leaders to act quickly.
“While we Americans have conquered space and improved human lives with our mind-boggling medical and scientific innovations, why can’t we find a solution to this cancer of mass shootings, which is eating away our children, adults and seniors at a lightning speed?” Babar asked.
Just a mile away from the Old National Bank shooting, 24-year-old Chea’von Moore was shot and killed outside Jefferson Community and Technical College. Another woman was also injured in the shooting. Speakers at the vigil reminded the audience that gun violence doesn’t just include mass shootings that garner national media attention. Forty people have been shot to death in Louisville this year.
“This is a wide-ranging reality. Gun violence comes in many forms,” said Kentucky state Sen. Gerald Neal. “I shut my eyes and ask myself, why haven't we done more?”
Rev. D. Kilen Gray of the First Baptist Church of Jeffersontown said he came to the vigil to support the families but also called for change. Gray said the people impacted by this shooting had significant standing in the community — one of the victims was a close friend of city and state officials — but there are many others impacted by gun violence on a daily basis who don’t get citywide prayer vigils.
“Every single day in the neighborhoods that we live in, the sound of gunfire happens,” Gray said. “My prayer as we pray for the families and pray for those who have been impacted by this senseless tragedy is that we don't just do thoughts and prayers, but we do policy and change.”
Also in attendance was Whitney Austin, whose Louisville-based organization Whitney/Strong advocates for bipartisan gun control legislation and education around gun safety. Austin was a victim of a mass shooting similar to the one Monday. She was shot 12 times as she walked into the Fifth Third Bank headquarters in Cincinnati in 2018.
“I was wrapped in love. Every person touched by gun violence — and that includes those shootings that have nothing to do with mass violence — deserve to be lifted up in the way that I was lifted up,” Austin said.
Austin said that moments like these sometimes make her feel “broken and defeated,” wondering how everything she has done has not been enough to stop more tragedies.
“This is the most important moment for you to find hope,” Austin said. “Because it is only through hope that you can find the strength to take action, and it is only through action, that change will ever come.”
Two people from Monday’s shooting are at University of Louisville Hospital as of Wednesday night. LMPD Officer Nickolas Wilt, who was shot in the head when he responded to the shooting, remains in critical condition.
The program closed with a rendition of “Amazing Grace,” led by Jason Clayborn. As Clayborn sang, some looked down and clasped their hands in prayers. Others sang alongside Clayborn.
“These few days have not been acts of love. But I know that the city is better than this,” said J. Herbert Nelson, the stated clerk at Presbyterian USA.
Speaking to families of the victims, he said, “Look at this gathering. Here is a day of people who came to you to share their love. And to believe that this place can be changed.”