IT AFFECTS EVERYONE — Babs Emert, right, wipes away tears shed at the Diversity Task Force of Independence Rally of Love vigil held Monday evening at Celebration Park. Standing to the left of Babs is her mother, Barbara Emert. Taina Copeland | Staff Photo
IT AFFECTS EVERYONE — Babs Emert, right, wipes away tears shed at the Diversity Task Force of Independence Rally of Love vigil held Monday evening at Celebration Park. Standing to the left of Babs is her mother, Barbara Emert. Taina Copeland | Staff Photo

"We are the world, we are the children. We are the ones who make a brighter day so let's start giving. There's a choice we are making, we are saving our own lives. It's true we'll make a better day, just you and me."

Nearly 20 people arrived at Celebration Park in downtown Independence Monday evening to join the Diversity Task Force in honoring the victims of the most recent mass shootings around the United States. The Rally of Love vigil was quickly organized and those attending the event included city leaders, emergency services representatives, business owners and concerned citizens.

Many of those present carried signs which said, "Independence Loves Gilroy," "Independence Loves Dayton" and "Independence Loves El Paso," among others. After thanking everyone for joining the vigil, Diversity Task Force member Kathy Shepard introduced Michelle Anderson, president of the Task Force. 

"We have come together to show our support for the victims of the recent mass shootings in Gilroy, Calif., El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio. It is our desire to show that Independence is a community of love and not hatred and bigotry," said Anderson. "We show this by standing together in unity so again, I thank you for coming out and showing your support."

Mayor Louis Ysusi took to the podium and began by saying he really didn't know what to say. "There were several thoughts that passed through my mind and I wrote a couple of them down," he said solemnly. "There is no question that evilness has existed in this world since the beginning of time. What causes the heart of man, that is capable of love and compassion for his fellow man, to turn cold and dark — filled with hate and contempt? A heart that shows no respect or consideration for the value of human life."

Ysusi said in his mind, "We need to look within ourselves, not only as individuals, but as a society to see where changes can be made to soften the hearts that go dark. To sew seeds of hope and love where there is hate and contempt."

Followed by the playing of "What the World Needs Now," Independence resident England Porter read a poem she wrote in honor of the victims. Porter then read the names of the victims of all three catastrophic events which was followed by a moment of silence.

Giving inspiration to the audience was Rod Zin and Dean Hayse performed as well. Attendees were encouraged to join in the singing of "We are the World" as printed lyrics were passed around. Tears were shed and hugs were given as voices broke through the air.

Task Force member, Brandon West, closed out the evening by saying, "On behalf of the Diversity Task Force I would like to thank all of our speakers and those of you who have come out to show love and compassion to the victims and families of the Garlic Festival, El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio shootings. We all know, all too well, attacks such as these have far-reaching affects, affecting the safety and spirit of our community."

West challenged those present to spread love. "Smile at the person you are passing in the store or on the street. Hold the door open for someone. Say 'Hi' to a stranger and live your life with love and compassion. Be the loving and supporting community that we know we are. Independence is not in the middle of nowhere, we are in the middle of everywhere."