With candles and heavy hearts, about 100 people gathered Thursday night to pray for a 23-year-old exchange student fighting for her life in a Chicago hospital.
Many of those in attendance said they don't personally know Natasha McShane or her friend, Stacy Jurich, but felt compelled to come together in solidarity and to send a message that the violence they endured will not be tolerated.
"By coming out like this this evening, we're saying, 'This is not acceptable. This violence should not take place. The people, visitors, citizens should be able to walk the streets of their city in safety without being attacked,'" said Fr. Karl Langsdorf during Thursday night's vigil at Chicago's Old St. Patrick's Church.
McShane and Jurich had been out celebrating Jurich's recent gain of an internship at a Chicago-area company last Thursday night when they were beaten unconscious by a bat-wielding man on a hunt for money and drugs. Police say the attacker's girlfriend smoked marijuana while she waited in a getaway car.
Jurich needed 15 staples in her head and is slowly improving. McShane remains in a drug-induced coma and doctors said they aren't sure if she'll ever walk or talk again.
"In such a tragic situation, we want to support the family, support her friends, and it just gives us an opportunity to come together and pray for them," said Lynne Cunningham, who doesn't know either of the girls but wanted to provide whatever support she could.
McShane's parents, Sheila and Liam, have been in Chicago since hours after the attack and attended Thursday's vigil. They declined to comment publicly but said through Ireland's Consul General, Martin Rouine, that they're grateful for the outpouring of support they've received.
In a statement, they said Natasha is "everything a parent could ever wish for in a daughter."
Authorities have charged Heriberto Viramontes and his girlfriend, Marcy Cruz, in the attack. Just hours before the vigil, Cruz was ordered held on $1 million bond. Viramontes is being held without bond, separated from other inmates, in the Cook County Jail.