By Nathan Ham
Peaceful marchers walked from First Baptist Church on King Street to the Temple of the High Country on Monday evening to show support for the lives lost in Saturday’s shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh.
Robert Bowers, 46, is facing 29 criminal charges and could face the death penalty after Saturday’s shooting that left 11 people dead.
In addition to the candlelight vigil, prayers and songs were shared to remember those that have lost their lives and those who have been impacted by hate in their lives.
“Hate has no place in this world,” said Rev. Roy Dobyns, the pastor of First Baptist Church in Boone. “We offer love and support and a pledge of solidarity to our Jewish neighbors and friends in our hometown and in cities and towns across the country in the aftermath of this useless hatred and violence.”
Rev. Cyndi Banks of St. Luke’s Episcopal is also the convener of the High Country Multi-Faith Clerty and Leaders who helped organize this event on a very short notice.
“We gather to mourn and to denounce anti-Semitism, racism and hate of the other,” said Banks. “Whether you are Jewish, Christian, Muslim or any other faith, or whether you are of no faith at all but are a human being of good will, we come together in the strongest way possible to say no to hate in all of its forms and yes to love.”
The crowd was so large that the group split in half, allowing people to walk on both sides of King Street in silence to serve as a memory to those that lost their lives at the hands of hate. Banks asked that walkers not use this event to chant or protest.
Banks also extended a special thanks to the Boone Police, Appalachian State Campus Police and the Watauga Sheriff’s Office for their assistance with the march and ensuring safety of the walkers.
Rabbi Stephen Roberts spoke to the gatherers at the Temple of the High Country.
“There is not a Boone Community, there is not an App State Community, there is a High Country Community. We are blessed by your presence and we want to acknowledge your prayers and gratitude today,” Roberts said.
Joan Brook, one of the crowd members that took part in the rally, reflected on what the moment meant to her as a member of the Jewish faith.
“As I walked slowly in silence, shivering for about half a mile, my mind thought of another walk, herding Jews with barely anything but the clothes on their backs, evicted from their homes, into the night. The community of Boone did a remarkable thing tonight, bringing together over 1,000 people of all faiths, in song and prayer and memorial, determined to practice peace over hate. As a Jew, I’m a minority here, whereas in Austin, I was never more than a whisper away from a corned beef sandwich or a morning minyan. But in Boone, the thread of inclusiveness runs deep,” Brook said.
Others that took part in the event were pleased with the show of support for the Jewish community.
“I thought it was a wonderful gathering of this community and expression of support for those folks at the temple, to grieve together and to stand together and express that the values of this community are not hate,” said Rev. Tommy Brown, the volunteer coordinator for F.A.R.M. Cafe.
Renee Boughman, the executive chef and founder of F.A.R.M. Cafe, felt the same way.
“My impression was that it was a really touching experience seeing the community come together and I was very pleased that there was such a diverse group of support for our friends and neighbors that are part of that community and I felt like it showed a true solidarity of people who care about each other and are compassionate in trying to find a way to live in peace instead of do harm,” Boughman said. “I thought it was a very important statement about who people can be when they want to show their best efforts and put their best foot forward.”