‘Cemetery of the Innocent’: Hilltoppers for Life group hold events at the Colonnade

Students gather at the Colonnade on WKU’s campus to participate in the Life Week Prayer Vigil. Mary Reding of the St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Campus Center said she was happy with the number of students that turned out for the event. “It takes a lot to get students to come to an event. It is like pulling teeth. But this event was different. People showed up out of the woodwork. It’s a really special event,” she said.

Michael McKay

The Colonnade bleachers are covered with crosses and red and black tablecloths that spell “life” when looked at from afar.

Shepardsville junior John Sohl, the president of WKU Hilltoppers for Life, said the display was called the “Cemetery of the Innocent.”

“What this represents is — just in the United States — we have 4,000 crosses made of Popsicle sticks, and each cross represents one baby aborted, one family shattered, one home broken,” Sohl said.

Hilltoppers for Life is a group “that looks to promote the right for all life from conception to natural death,” according to the group’s Facebook page.

The group got permission from WKU to keep up the display the entire week for Life Week, Sohl said. He said this is the first major event the group has had.

Sohl said members of the group have been sitting at the bottom of the Colonnade for the past couple of days to make sure nothing was disturbed — until it was vandalized Tuesday night.

“One person sat up there (at the Top of the Colonnade), and he sat there, and we were like, ‘What is he doing?’” Sohl said. “And he sat there for 10, 15 minutes, and then all of the sudden, we see him rip up a cross, break it in half and throw it across the thing.”

Sohl said he videotaped the vandalism, but they decided not to do anything because that person “might have had an emotional trauma from an abortion experience.”

“We didn’t (do anything), because one, two, three crosses isn’t a big deal,” he said.

Wednesday night, candles in milk cartons and Gatorade bottles lined the Colonnade for a candlelight vigil service.

Around 20 people held candles and sat on the steps praying for people who have dealt with abortions and for others to make the right choice for their pregnancies.

Columbia, Md., freshman Ashleigh Hardin said she attended the vigil because she is a strong supporter of the anti-abortion movement.

“It means a lot to me to see that I’m not alone in being pro-life, and honestly I wasn’t even expecting this many people to come out,” Hardin said.

White boards were placed earlier in the week at the bottom of the Colonnade, letting students write a response to “What’s your opinion on abortions?”

Hardin said she believes life starts at conception and taking a life is murder. She said some of the opinions on abortions were hard for her to see.

“Some of the stuff on the board like, ‘Keeping God out of the government,’ it just breaks my heart, honestly,” she said.

To Hardin, separation of church and state just means the government can’t change the church’s beliefs, but it doesn’t necessarily mean the church can’t change the government.

Father Mike Williams of the St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Campus Center said during the vigil that it took “conversation and prayer” for him to support the event because of the effect he, as a priest, has seen abortion have on people.  

“A lot of times, the victims are the women who have chosen to have the abortions, and when we do this, we ‘re-victimize’ them,” Williams said.

Williams said people talk a lot about how abortion is wrong, but those same people don’t talk about people having premarital affairs or committing infidelity.

“The shame, the guilt, the burden they carry, to me, it just scares me to death that this could make them feel that again,” he said.

Williams said he supported it because it was a vigil to support the pro-life movement and not the anti-abortion movement, which he said were different.

He said to him, pro-life means loving everyone, including those who have had abortions and those who have performed them.

Sohl said the purpose of Life Week and the crosses is to pray for families to heal. He said he knows realistically nothing can be done about abortions that have already happened.

“It’s not just, ‘Oh my gosh, look at all of the children getting killed every day,’” Sohl said. “We don’t focus on that.”