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‘This isn’t normal’: Local vigil honors Boulder victims

Rocky Mountain High School alum and vigil organizer Mikiele Biles speaks at the March 23 candlelight vigil outside of the Larimer County Justice Center organized to honor the victims of the March 22 Boulder King Soopers shooting. (Matt Tackett | The Collegian)

After Monday’s mass shooting at a Boulder, Colorado, King Soopers, which left 10 dead, including police officer Eric Talley, the Fort Collins community came together to show their support.

Students from Colorado State University and local high schools gathered Tuesday night in the cold outside the Larimer County Justice Center to honor and grieve the victims. 

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Mikiele Biles, a recent graduate from Rocky Mountain High School, organized the vigil with the support of friends and family, making fliers to spread the word. Biles and friends also made posters honoring each of the victims and bought candles for attendees to light.

“I am the type of person where that feeling can really overtake me. But I wanted to use my pain and try to help my community and bring everyone together. One girl said she was from Boulder, and she wishes she could’ve been home, and that’s exactly what I wanted to do.” -Mikiele Biles, organizer of Tuesday’s vigil.

Biles said she chose to organize the event because she has family ties to Boulder, and while worried about her family members, she got herself into a “spiral … of anger and heartbreak and sadness.”

She said she ended up posting a message to see if anyone would help her set up the vigil and was met with support from peers. 

“I am the type of person where that feeling can really overtake me,” Biles said. “But I wanted to use my pain and try to help my community and bring everyone together. One girl said she was from Boulder, and she wishes she could’ve been home, and that’s exactly what I wanted to do.”

Piper Klein, one of Biles’ friends and a senior at Fort Collins High School, made the flier for the event and sent it to Barstool Sports CSU, who then reposted it on their Instagram account @barstoolcsu. In a speech she made to the small gathering, Klein said she heard the news between teaching swimming lessons to kids but had to hold it together.

Klein said what really struck her about the incident was how many comments said that the mass shootings in recent weeks, including the March 16 violence in Atlanta that left eight dead, are signs that things are “returning to normal,” as the country begins to open back up following COVID-19 closures.

Klein said the escalation in violence was awful, “devastating and heartbreaking,” especially so close to home. She added that it was important for the community to bond together and support each other, while also demanding action to prevent the violence from continuing any longer. 

“‘Oh, COVID-19 is going away, the pandemic’s getting better; that means things are going back to normal’ as if all these shootings are normal,” Klein said. “This isn’t normal — we shouldn’t accept this as normal. … I feel awful for all the victims across the entire United States, … and we can’t keep going on like this.”

Rocky Mountain High School alumnus and vigil organizer Mikiele Biles hugs Fort Collins High School student Piper Klein during the moment of silence at the March 23 candlelight vigil. (Matt Tackett | The Collegian)

John Williamson, a third-year finance student at CSU, said he found out about the event from Barstool CSU’s post and decided to attend to support the community.

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“I have no connection to almost anyone in Boulder; I’m an out-of-state student from Hawaii,” Williamson said. “But I know what it’s like to lose someone. I lost my dad and my brother, and that was both too soon. And just the support that I got meant a lot to me, so if I could support even one person going through whatever this may mean to them, that is enough for me to be out here in the cold.” 

Williamson also said while he couldn’t be in Boulder to support the community there, supporting the people in our local community was the “bare minimum” he could do. 

“I wouldn’t have had time to do this at all, like I have a lot on my plate,” Williamson said. “But the fact (is) that this is already set up where all I have to do is show up and support.” 

Molly Margolis, a junior construction management major, also said it was important for her to show support in her local community. Margolis, who is from Superior, Colorado — a town right outside of Boulder — wanted to be home to support her community in Boulder but couldn’t due to school and work.

“Being able to support my community from home, like my community in Fort Collins was supporting my community in Boulder, meant so much more than I can even express and so that prompted me to just show my support,” Margolis said. “I don’t even know who’s setting this up; the community aspect of supporting Coloradans just meant way more than they even know.” 

Margolis also said she wanted to give props to Biles and her friends and family for putting together the candlelight vigil, adding that she didn’t know if other people would have taken action.

Noah Pasley can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @PasleyNoah.

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About the Contributor
Noah Pasley
Noah Pasley, News Editor
Noah Pasley is a senior journalism and media communication major with a minor in English. He is excited to continue his career with The Collegian and spend more time focused on reporting on social issues as well as reporting on breaking news in the Colorado State University and Fort Collins communities. As news editor, Pasley is hoping to spend more time in the community following stories and uplifting student voices. When he isn’t writing, he’s usually hunkered down with a video game and a good playlist. As a senior, Pasley is very excited to get underway with the rest of his college experience. He is most interested in learning more about the world of film and video, which he also explores daily as the Tuesday night entertainment anchor over at CTV 11. Noah Pasley can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @PasleyNoah.

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