Healing: The Value of Community Voices


Bridgewater College

Bridgewater students, alumni, families, and other members of the Bridgewater community stand outside the Forrer Learning Commons to sing Bridgewater’s Alma Mater, “Bridgewater Fair.”

Abby Gaver, Assistant Web Editor

Bridgewater, Va. – The Bridgewater College campus is quiet as students return to classes and process what is the new normal. For some students, classes are moved to new locations, while others see few changes to their usual routines. Underneath the quiet, however, lies a strong sense of community. 

On Wednesday, Feb. 2, BC students, alumni, professors and families congregated outside of the FLC to sing “Bridgewater Fair.” The singing of the school’s traditional song was to honor the fallen heroes, Campus Safety Officer “J.J.” Jefferson and Campus Police Officer John Painter and to express love in the wake of violence. 

“I was surprised, it brought tears to my eyes to know that hundreds of people came the following day to sing ‘Bridgewater Fair’ and stand in solidarity for that purpose,” said Dr. Ryan Keebaugh, director of choral music. 

Keebaugh explained that the idea to sing Bridgewater’s song, as a community, came as a collaborative want by the musical department and its students.

The singing heard was the voice of a community. The voices ranged from strong to shaky, both fraught with emotion, and included the rustle of tissues – the only other noise. It filled the silence felt on the campus with hope, love and gratitude – for the heroes and for the gift of community.

“Oftentimes, you don’t have the words for those kinds of things, and so being able to sing and put all those emotions into music really helped,” said junior Shifa Tewari. “I’ve never heard such a beautiful sound. It was rich and it was full of love.”

Afterward, those who joined came together in conversation. There was no lack of love for one another as hugs, condolences and prayers were offered to those around. Those present processed the bittersweet view of a wounded community.

“Once you’re an eagle, you’re always an eagle,” said Tewari. “You have this community everywhere, and it seems like a small school until you look at the scope of it, and it’s a huge nationwide kind of community.”

Tewari was a pillar of kindness after the “Bridgewater Fair” came to an end, by checking-in on those around and making sure they had eaten.

“It’s like mom-mode activated,” said Tewari. “We all need hugs or like just whatever people need, like I always want to be that person.”

Professor Ronald Alabanza, practitioner in residence of art, was also present. Alabanza came out to support his students. “They need to be seen, and I need to see them,” said Alabanza. “Even when you go to something as sad as this, you see everybody, and that’s comfort, right? They want to support each other. Ultimately, that’s what it comes down to: to support each other.”

Those present for the “Bridgewater Fair” were those who shared a love for the BC community. The sentiment was shared by students, professors, alumni and neighbors from the surrounding community.

“Bridgewater has this really small school feel, but people here come from all different kinds of places,” said Alabanza. “I always tell folks: I like the vibe at Bridgewater!”

“The idea was just to come together, not to really perform the best thing in the world and put on this concert. That’s not the idea. It’s about coming together, reuniting, mourning, crying, hugging, laughing, just reuniting and standing together.” said Keebaugh, “It’s just to get together and sing the Alma Mater and stand together as one.” 

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