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Brandon Woodruff speaks during the Vigil for Antioch held Sunday, April 29, 2018 at the Renaissance Park pavilion in Chattanooga, Tenn. Woodruff is friends with James Shaw Jr., who stopped the shooter last week in a Nashville Waffle House, and said he could have easily been one of those individuals in the Waffle House with Shaw when the shooting occurred.
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Chattanooga students hold vigil for those killed in Waffle House shooting

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Four candles burned at the Renaissance Park pavilion as a group of students held a vigil for the four killed in a deadly shooting at a Nashville Waffle House a week ago.

"Gun violence is so prevalent in this country, that shootings like the one in Antioch didn't receive the news coverage that it deserved," said Julia Becker, a freshman at Chattanooga Center for Creative Arts. "We need to start seeing serious change in this country because it is absolutely heartbreaking heart breaking to see things like this happening so often, and change starts with us."

The group, Chattanooga Students Leading Change, formed after the shooting at a Parkland, Fla., high school that left 17 dead in February. The students are some of the leaders behind local student walkouts and the March for Our Lives rally in March. Recently, they traveled to Washington, D.C. to meet with U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, Rep. Chuck Fleischmann and staffers for U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander to advocate for stricter gun laws and efforts to combat gun violence.

A fraternity brother of James Shaw, the man who wrestled the gun away from the shooter at the Waffle House last Sunday, spoke at the vigil.

Brandon Woodruff said in the past he has gone to the same fraternity parties as the group of people in the Waffle House that night, and has eaten at International House of Pancakes and Waffle House restaurants after those parties and even played on the same fraternal basketball team.

"I could have very well been in that same situation, in that same predicament," he said. "And for me, I think it really hit home."

He also drew attention to gun violence that affects some students every day.

"Let's talk about and have a conversation about the gun violence that happens in the inner city," Woodruff said. " Our military officials go over seas and they come back with PTSD because of the things they experienced, but we don't talk about how some of the kids in the inner city experience some of those overseas experiences every day."

He said he thinks a focus on mental health research is needed in order to better address the root of the gun violence problem.

Grace Bostock, a sophomore at Baylor School, said it's important to know the difference between being an idle consumer of news and being empowered to take action.

"Consumption, you fall into a hole where it's so easy to think, 'Well, I can't; it's too much,'" she said. "Many times, you're told, 'The system's broken' That's not something we thought, that's what we were told. And that's why we're here again to say, 'Well, that's not good enough. Fix it.'"

She said the group wants to represent the empowerment and motivation that comes after tragedies such as the recent mass shootings. She urged people to not sit back and think that other people will take action.

"It's not 'They're making change,' it's going to be 'We're making change,'" she said. "If you tell me, as a legislator, as a representative, that the system is broken, then why are you [in office]?"

Contact staff writer Rosana Hughes at rhughes@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6327 with tips or story ideas. Follow her on Twitter @Hughes Rosana.

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