Calling the kidnapped girls of Nigeria “our kids,” a crowd of city residents gathered to hold a vigil for them Monday.
More than 200 girls were kidnapped from their school in Nigeria last month by Islamist militants. None has been rescued yet, though some did manage to escape capture. The militants have threatened to either sell the girls into slavery or exchange them for prisoners held by the government.
There has been growing international outcry over the situation, and Hamilton Hill neighborhood association President Marva Isaacs said she wanted Schenectady to join in. She organized the vigil.
“We need the Nigerian government to be more diligent in finding our kids,” Isaacs said. “I’m hoping and praying that this president of Nigeria could do something. The outpouring of people coming up everywhere doing something like this [may] give the man some incentive.”
For some of those attending the vigil, the far-away kidnapping was personal.
“Because I can only imagine, as a mother, what the mothers are going through,” said Ebony Belmar, holding her daughter, Jordin Ross. “I have a daughter. [The kidnapping] is just any parent’s worst nightmare.”
She brought 5-year-old Jordin to teach her what to do when tragedy strikes.
“We need to be supportive of each other, regardless of race, ethnicity, location,” she said. “And I want her to learn that.”
So far, so good — her daughter is already practicing forgiveness.
Jordin said she cares about people so much that when a boy hit her at preschool today, she asked for an apology instead of hitting back.
“Before he even finished, she went up and hugged him,” Belmar said. “She’s got a heart of gold.”
She added that because Jordin is a girl, she is more worried about protecting her.
Mayor Gary McCarthy acknowledged those fears as he welcomed the vigil to City Hall.
“It is so devastating and so scary to have something like this happen anywhere in the world,” he said.
Isaacs said the kidnapping made her fear for local children.
“These could be our kids,” she said. “It’s very heart-breaking to see all these kids that have been taken and it worries me.”
U.S. pilots are flying searching patterns, looking for the girls, and a group of Nigerians with homemade weapons have announced they plan to go hunting for the kidnappers themselves. Some of the girls’ parents have complained that the Nigerian army has done little to address the situation.