Before the sun emerged above the horizon Saturday morning, more than 200 members of the Island community came together to walk along State Beach in a show of support and remembrance for victims of suicide.
At 4:50 am, the parking area along Bend in the Road Beach was filled with cars, and flickering candles could be seen dancing along the dunes.
There was a sign with the word “Hope” shining brightly next to the shoreline, and somber faces were illuminated by a bright bonfire.
This was the first Darkness into Vineyard Light suicide awareness and prevention walk. People young and old huddled together with steaming thermoses in hand, comforting one another and sharing fond memories of friends and family members.
A Banner of Hope hung under a tent, where people could write messages commemorating loved ones and offering inspiration to others. One message at the corner of the banner read, “I wish I could show you when you are lonely in darkness the astonishing light of your own being.”
Another read “There is help out there to let the light come through.”
David Araujo, director of the Island Intervention Center, started off the event by thanking all the survivors who were strong enough to come out and show their support. “I hope we can see this as an opportunity to cry, laugh, heal, and grieve,” Araujo said. “We’re hoping to smash the stigma. Sometimes people with suicidal thoughts feel powerless and without a voice. May we continue to be the voice for those who feel powerless.”
Maria Ventura, co-organizer for the event, told the crowd how she lost her father to suicide. “I don’t want another person to learn through a phone call that their father is gone,” Ventura said.
“Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.”
She spoke of how taking one’s own life does not solve the immediate issues, it passes the grief and sadness on to those who are closest. Every opportunity to be kind, according to Ventura, should be taken. “You never know how meaningful one small gesture can be to someone,” she said.
Melissa Vincent donned her Darkness into Vineyard Light T shirt and held her candle as she stood by the side of the road and talked with friends. “Anything we can do to break the stigma. It’s worth coming out at 5 am, anything I can do to spread the word,” she said.
Before the walkers made their way toward Big Bridge along the road, co-organizer for the event John Murray told everyone he was proud and empowered by the turnout. “This is all a learning experience. It’ll always get better every year, but this is incredible,” Murray said.
The crowd then started walking toward Big Bridge while Edgartown Police Chief Bruce McNamee played bagpipes in full piper dress. Another shining sign next to the jetty read, “Listen.”
After the walk, everyone returned to the starting spot at Bend in the Road and enjoyed coffee, breakfast burritos, and baked goods. A group of Minnesingers played “Walking on Sunshine” and the entire group silently counted the minutes till sunrise.