WILLIAMSTOWN -- Despite the frigid cold and light snow Monday night, over 40 people participated in a candlelight vigil at Williams College, in honor of students who died in the Jan. 15 bombing of a Syrian university. The vigil was organized by freshman Sumaya Awad.
"Students were taking their first round of final exams," she told the crowd, arranged in a circle in front of Chapin Hall. "It was a government school, and yet, it was the government that bombed the school that day."
Two rounds of bombs fell on Allepo University, killing 82 students and injuring over 200. In light of this, she said, there was a candle vigil at York University a few days after the attack. No Williams students were involved in the strike.
"In response, all across North America, there have been candle vigils at colleges and universities," she said.
According to the Associated Press, opposition forces and the Syrian government have blamed each other for the explosions. Anti-regime activists fighting against President Bashar al-Assad's government said his forces carried out the attacks, while Syrian state media blamed rebels fighting the government. The United Nations said if the attack was launched by Assad's government, it would be guilty of war crimes against civilians.
Sumaya read a poem in Arabic that was written by a Syrian mother who lost her family in the war. The poem was about the children whose lives were affected through this war, either through loss of family, friends or their own life.
Sumaya said the students were taking exams at a place they should feel safe.
"[Universities] are often regarded as a sanctuary. It's a place that brings out the future," she said. "These students died in pursuit of an education."
Sumaya said her connection to this is personal -- her mother is Syrian.
"This came out as the best response in such short notice," she said, adding that she was happy with the turnout.
Sumaya's brother, Abdullah Awad, a Williams College senior, also addressed the crowd.
"We have certain comforts, so the cold we feel now is later alleviated when we enter our dorms," he said.
For many other people around the world, he said, this isn't the case. He pointed to Syrian refugees living in Jordan, who migrated there to escape the war.
"They live in tents in the middle of the winter, with no electricity and no water," he said. "Their suffering is so much more visceral and life-affecting, that it may be difficult for us to understand it."
He urged them to remember those who didn't have the privilege to retreat back to their dorm rooms.
"With privilege comes a certain kind of responsibility," he said. "This responsibility doesn't stop with Williams College or even the with the U.S. It extends to the rest of the world."
To reach Edward Damon, email