Rally for peace

Students organize movement to remember victims of terrorist attacks

For associate professor Brigitte Roussel, the Nov. 13 terrorist attacks in France hit too close to home.

“We are very sad, infinitely sad,” said Roussel, who was born in France and lived in Paris for a while.

Roussel and Pi Delta Phi — the French Honors Society at Wichita State — organized a peace rally Friday in the Plaza of Heroines, located in the heart of campus.

About 100 people filtered through the plaza, which was adorned in blue, red and white candles, signs and drapes, in solidarity with the victims of international terrorist attacks, including in Paris, Beirut and Lebanon a week before the rally.

“I organized the event, and my students actually asked if we could put together a commemorative event so people could come together… at this time of grieving and sadness for the world,” Roussel said.

About 130 people died in the attacks in Paris — France reported —  and another 350 were injured.

“We are here in order to be together,” Roussel said, “and to grieve, pause and reflect, like the people of Paris and all the people all over the world who are being victims of the horrible and unjustified attacks.”

Students held signs that read, “#Shockers4peace,” “We welcome refugees” and “Liberté, égalité, fraternité,” which translates to “liberty, equality, fraternity.”

Senior Amanda Babcock, vice president of the French Honor Society, was at the rally Friday, and said she plans to study abroad in France next semester.

“It was difficult for me and other students who traveled to France to see the place you love and the people you love go through something this terrible,” she said. “Having this was a good place to put our grief.”

After Christmas, Babcock will leave for France, but the attacks, however, will not change her plans.

“Because then, you know, they win,” she said.

She said it is important, while still vulnerable, for individuals to educate themselves on things that they have not yet been exposed to, and move to forward united.

George Babcock, Amanda’s father, was supportive of his daughter’s plans to study in Paris in the spring, and he attended the rally Friday.

“I think that they should continue with their airstrikes,” said George Babcock, a veteran of the U.S. Air Force. “I think that we should support them any way we can. I don’t support going in with the troops.”

Wichita State junior Grace Kurban is from Lebanon. She said the recent events and rally revealed more than just local support for refugees.

“I think more people are here for Paris and France, but they realize it’s for support and unification,” she said.

Wilson Baldridge, department chair of Modern and Classic Languages and Literatures, was a key leader in organizing the rally. Her connections to France started at an early age, she said.

“I grew up in D.C., and at a young age I remember being introduced to the ambassador of France and also the president of a French-speaking country in Africa,” Baldridge said. “I was learning French in school and I continued. I consider myself bicultural for that reason.”

Alyssa Cool, treasurer of Pi Delta Phi, stood at the rally with three small sacks in her hands, each containing gems colored red, blue and white. She walked around and encouraged participants to place them inside a jar to pay homage of the attacks. One by one, participants took the gems, one of each color, and dropped them inside the jar.

“I came here today for one reason and one reason only,” Baldridge said. “That is simply to demonstrate solidarity with the people of Paris and also Beirut, Lebanon and any victim of international terrorism.”

— Contributing: Danielle Prewitt