UC Merced students hold healing vigil to take back their campus

MERCED, Calif. -- Students, staff, and community members walked across Scholars Lane Bridge, all the way to the Quad, where there was a moment of silence before a very loud Bobcat Strong cheer.

Students say "Bobcat strong" means sticking together through the good and bad.

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"Grieving together makes it easier," said UC Merced student Olayinka Oredola.

Students say Friday night's Candlelight vigil was cathartic, two days after 18-year-old Faisal Mohammad went on a stabbing spree before being shot by an officer on the bridge. As part of the vigil, students reclaimed the symbolic bridge by walking across it arm-in-arm.

"That's the only way to get to classes, so the fact that someone actually passed on that bridge is scary and reclaiming it for our campus and as a community helps a lot. So that's why we did it and that's why I was here," Oredola said.

"I was almost shaking because that bridge is so symbolic," said UC Merced Chancellor Dorothy Leland. "Every new student who comes into UC Merced walks across that bridge."

Leland says it was a remarkable and emotional ceremony. She cried with students, but says their hugs helped. She's quick to direct the attention toward students, but they are grateful for a strong voice in her.

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"I knew her as a fun person, but now I saw her as a strong leader, someone that represents UC Merced in a way that we can all be proud of, in my belief," UC Merced student Lorenzo Quiambao said.

The dark memories won't go away, but the vigil was a way to end the week on a high note, and to bring some beauty to a tragedy.

"It's just a beautiful, beautiful thing to see the community come together and chant, and it's just a wonderful thing, a positive ending to this tragedy that has happened," said UC Merced student Gabrielle Spalard.

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