Central Nebraskans Pray for Peace

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Updated: Mon, 21 Jul 2014 10:26:53 CST

All 298 passengers on board Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 were killed on Thursday when their plane was shot down in Ukraine. Some of whom were considered the most brilliant and influential AIDS researchers in the world.

Tonight members of the community gathered in Grand Island for a prayer vigil to pray for peace and mourn the lives of all of the victims, but many fear the loss of these researchers could mean the process of finding a cure for AIDS will be stalled.

"Every time we talk about researchers that have been doing this work since the 80's were talking about loss of intelligence that none of us can really replace," said Hastings resident, Juan Gallegos.

Thousands of aids researchers and advocates were planning on discussing the next step in finding a cure for the disease, instead the 2014 aids conference on Sunday was filled with a sense of loss and grief.

"Some of these men and women are the brightest and smartest individuals in the world in regards to this disease and I believe that many of them were close on working on cures and remedies," said Brian Whitecalf, organizer of the prayer vigil.

Among the 298 victims of the Malaysian airlines flight shot down in eastern Ukraine on Thursday were six of the most prominent aids researchers and advocates in the world.

"You might scientists but its hard to find advocates that are willing to represent the community without stigma without feeling afraid," said Gallegos.

On Sunday members of the community converged at Calvary Lutheran church in grand island to honor the victims of the tragedy and pray for peace.

"This gives us an opportunity to comfort one another in this time of loss," said Whitecalf.

Among those killed was former International Aids Society president and professor of medicine Joep Lang who was instrumental in research and activism for the virus.

"He had heart and love for individuals affected by this disease and dedicated his entire life to this research and tarts something that we need from someone else someone else needs to step up and commit themselves and tarts what the world is looking for," said Whitecalf.

Area residents shared words, prayers, and poetry to pay tribute to those who perished on flight 17.

"People feel like they aren't really connected but we live in a global world what happens in one place in one corner of the world affects us all especially when it comes to an epidemic like HIV and AIDS," said Gallegos.

Today at the 20th international aids conference in Melbourne, officials held a moment of silence to remember the six aids researchers and advocates.