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At Trinity College, a vigil honors lives lost in Israel-Hamas war, after shooting of student in VT

Students attend a vigil held at Mather Hall on the campus of Trinity College in Hartford to honor lives lost in the Israel-Hamas war after Trinity student Tahseen Ali Ahmad, Kinnan Abdalhamid of Haverford College and Hisham Awartani of Brown University were shot in Burlington, VT. November 29, 2023
Dave Wurtzel
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Connecticut Public
Students attend a vigil held at Mather Hall on the campus of Trinity College in Hartford to honor lives lost in the Israel-Hamas war after Trinity student Tahseen Ali Ahmad, Kinnan Abdalhamid of Haverford College and Hisham Awartani of Brown University were shot in Burlington, VT. November 29, 2023

Students and faculty gathered at Trinity College in Hartford late Wednesday afternoon to honor the lives lost in the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas.

They also gathered in support of one of their own. Tahseen Ali Ahmad, a sophomore of Palestinian descent, is recovering after being shot, along with two of his friends, in Vermont on Saturday.

Ali Ahmad and two other students — all of whom are studying in the U.S. — were shot in Burlington. The man accused of shooting them was arrested Sunday and has pleaded not guilty to three charges of attempted murder.

State Rep. Jason Rojas, who is also chief of staff to Trinity's president, spoke following the vigil, saying the college supports Ali Ahmad.

The impact of what happened to Ali Ahmed has been felt across campus, he said.

“He's a student of ours, he's our responsibility,” Rojas said. “We've had faculty, we've had his friends who have gone to see him, who’ve stopped there, who have been there all week — just to ensure that he has all the support, knowing that his immediate family isn't here to do that.”

Rojas said people were “feeling vulnerable and not being able to solve some of these really difficult world issues that manifests themselves on college campuses like ours."

Journalists were not allowed to observe the vigil, held in Mather Hall. But more than 100 people gathered inside, forming a circle.

The vigil had been planned before the shootings took place.

“This vigil takes on a new meaning for our community as a show of support for Tahseen and his friends,” Joanne Berger-Sweeney, the college president, said in a note to the campus community.

The intent of the vigil was to create a space for students to come together, said Rev. Marcus Halley, the school’s chaplain, in an email sent to the campus before the weekend shooting.

“I know from speaking with many of you — students, faculty, and staff — that it has been difficult to hold the complex range of emotions that witnessing or experiencing this conflict raises,” Halley wrote. “This has been made more difficult by the rising tide of hate, antisemitism, anti-Arab prejudice, and Islamophobia on the internet and social media.”

Rojas says the vigil was designed to be inclusive.

“There are people from all over the world, including Palestine, and including Israel, who are members of our community, and we want to make sure that they feel like they're a part of it,” he said.

Threats against Jewish, Muslim and Arab communities have increased in Connecticut and across the U.S. since the Israel-Hamas war began.

Trinity College students gather in Mather Hall for a vigil for the ongoing crisis in Israel and Gaza, and in support of Tahseen Aliahmad ’26, a student of Palestinian descent who was shot along with two of his friends in Burlington, Vermont.
Provided / Nick Caito
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Trinity College
Trinity College students gather in Mather Hall for a vigil for the ongoing crisis in Israel and Gaza, and in support of Tahseen Aliahmad ’26, a student of Palestinian descent who was shot along with two of his friends in Burlington, Vermont.

At a vigil Monday night at Brown University, a professor read a statement from another student who was shot, Hisham Awartani, in which he expressed appreciation for the community's love and support but said, “I am but one casualty in a much wider conflict.”

A vigil was also held Monday at Pliny Park in Brattleboro, Vermont.

Ali Ahmad and the two other students were shot as they were out for a walk on a residential street close to the University of Vermont. The three students have been friends for several years and were celebrating Thanksgiving and family birthdays.

As Ali Ahmad was recovering in Vermont, fellow students in Connecticut spoke of his kind demeanor. Mel Keith, a Trinity College student, said on Monday that Ali Ahmad readily offered to help on one occasion.

"He's really nice. I was setting up for a formal with one of my friends. We were really struggling, moving like this big, heavy piece of wood," Keith said. "And he asked us, Hey, do you guys need some help?"

Connecticut Public Radio’s Patrick Skahill and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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