It was only when a pastor asked us - at the end of tonight's candle-holding vigil for Tyler Clementi - to go home and bear witness to the fact that we'd been there that I got out my camera. Not only did it seem inappropriate to do so earlier (although, of course, there was an aesthetically hungry part of me that saw all those serious faces illuminated by candle light, and found the possibility a tempting one that had to be resisted), but the vigil itself was continuously orchestrated, in a low key way, by the clicks and whirs of shutters and camera motors, and by the slow progress of television camera men. This, of course, was in addition to the unmistakable background vrrrrooom of the Rutgers buses, and the occasional clatter of a skateboarder.
How many does it take to make a crowd? Two hundred? Three hundred? I'm not sure how many were there tonight: it was a respectably large gathering, but one would have wanted many, many more - it seemed strange and disconnected that there were students sitting fifty yards away at Au Bon Pain and getting on with their evenings, drinking coffee and chatting on their cell phones and maybe studying - let alone all of the others who were just generally strolling around College Avenue. This made the vigil seem more like the strong showing of a special interest group - whereas one would have wanted it to be spreading out down College Avenue in all directions. I needn't have been worried for a minute (as I had been) about getting a parking space. I was so very delighted to see Richard McCormick, Rutgers's President, there - he has quite admirably made all the right moves and pronouncements in all of this (though I couldn't help but be amused by the fact that amid all of our white tapers, he had two solid Rutgers Red candles - does Old Queens keep a special stock of them, or had he made a special trip to Michael's?). So I was simultaneously very moved by the fact that we could turn out, solemnly and thoughtfully, as a community for this occasion - but wanted the crowds to be huge, disappearing out of view, full of people angry, saddened, but determined to forge a better world. Sometimes, though we think we've come so far, compared with thirty or forty years ago, it also seems that we have far too far to go.