IN PHOTOS: Nashville holds vigil in honor of Covenant School shooting victims

First Lady Jill Biden, Nashville Mayor John Cooper, MNPD Chief John Drake and other government leaders were in attendance, while Sheryl Crow and other musicians performed.


Barrie Barto

A cross stands tall over the crowd at the vigil in honor of the Covenant School shooting, as photographed on March 29, 2023. (Hustler Multimedia/Barrie Barto)

Rachael Perrotta, Editor-in-Chief

A candlelight vigil was held in Public Square Park in downtown Nashville on Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. CDT to mourn the loss of the six victims of The Covenant School shooting.

First Lady Jill Biden, Nashville Mayor John Cooper, MNPD Chief John Drake and other government leaders were in attendance and spoke. Sheryl Crow, Margo Price and Ketch Secor of Old Crow Medicine Show musicians performed. Family members of the victims also attended.

“All of Nashville became part of your community this week,” Cooper said. “We stand by you and support you, today and always.” 

He also called for religious leaders to help the community to move forward.

“You are the rock we lean on for support,” Cooper said. “Let us resolve to go forward, to create a better future — a future that does not repeat this week’s tragedy.”

Other speakers spoke about the resilience of Nashville and led the crowd in prayers. In between speeches, Crow sang “I Shall Believe,” her gentle voice and the soothing notes of her keyboard reverberating through the rows of people and wavering candle flames. The lines “Even if it’s a lie / Say it will be alright / and I shall believe” particularly resonated with the grieving crowd.

Drake paid tribute to the victims of the shooting, garnering a round of applause for his praise of the MNPD officers and other first responders. He encouraged the audience to stay strong in the face of this tragedy. 

“We hoped this would never happen in Nashville,” Drake said. “Our police officers have cried, and I’ve cried, with Nashville and with the world. I have cried and continued to cry, and I have prayed for Nashville, as well.”

Margo Price followed Drake’s speech with an acapella version of “Tears of Rage” which echoed through the park. As tears trickled down the cheeks of attendees, Price belted “Tears of rage / tears of grief.” 

District 25 Council Member Russ Pulley, who represents and lives in the Green Hills area, urged Nashvillians to rely on their support systems and to welcome vulnerability in their grieving process.

“Our community will continue to mourn the broken innocence of the Covenant School children and those who were lost to us,” Pulley said.

Pulley also spoke of the promise Nashville and the Green Hills community has made to support each other following the tragedy and remember the lives lost. 

“I cannot help but reflect on the word covenant. A covenant means a promise,” Pulley said.

Secor then sang “Will the Circle Be Unbroken,” encouraging attendees to sing along with him. The Christian hymn speaks of a “better home in the sky” and the sorrow experienced by those who have lost loved ones. 

The vigil ended in a group prayer. After most of the dignitaries had left the podium, Secor and Crow came back to sing “Amazing Grace.” A large wooden cross stood tall in the midst of the crowd throughout the vigil. 

Tennessee Representative Justin Jones (D) also returned to the podium to encourage the audience to protest for gun policy reform at the Tennessee State Capitol today at 8 a.m. CDT. He specifically referenced how Governor Bill Lee was not in attendance at the vigil. 

“Hold them accountable,” Jones said.