With a gentle breeze brushing the leaves of surrounding trees, the only sounds came from a few songbirds and the muted traffic on Central Avenue in the distance.
The tranquil scene provided a vivid contrast to the chaos that descended on Nepal following the magnitude-7.8 quake a week ago today, which killed more than 6,000 people, according to the latest reports Friday.
Most of those in the crowd – men, women and children of all ages – were from Nepal.
Alok Bohara, director of the Nepal Study Center, asked the 200 to 300 people to form the shape of a Nepali flag – two conjoined triangles – a large outline of which had been chalked on the pavement. The flag, he said, would be a “symbol of our solidarity with the people of Nepal.”
He and Dadhi Adhikari of the Nepali Student Association spoke of the resiliency of the Nepalese people, noting as examples children rescued from the rubble of toppled buildings several days after the quake.
The candles would spread a message of condolence and togetherness through the air and provide hope and strength to the people of Nepal, they said.
Pranav Shrestha was in the crowd with his wife, Preety, and their 2-year-old child, Aahana. He said their family members who live in the capital of Kathmandu had been forced outside their homes for a few days but were otherwise safe. They visited Nepal earlier this year.
“Things are starting to calm down now in Kathmandu,” Pranav Shrestha said with obvious relief.
Tomás Aguirre, dean of students at the University of New Mexico, delivered a few words on behalf of President Bob Frank, Provost Chaouki Abdallah and the entire university community.
“We wish to express our condolences to the families, friends and countrymen and women of the almost 5,000 victims of the recent earthquake,” Aguirre said. “Our hearts especially grieve for our Nepali students here at UNM. You are and always will be a part of the Lobo family, and we feel for your loss and the resulting pain and suffering you may now be experiencing.”