Vigil for Newtown, Conn. spreads light of healing
iOWER MAKEFIEiD – Bundled up against the biting December cold, they came with their children. They came with their spouses, their aunts and uncles, grandparents, sisters, brothers and loved ones.
They came looking for peace, to hold each other close and to light a candle in the bleak December darkness to remember the 26 bright and shining lives that were taken so violently, so suddenly at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., just a week before.
The tragedy may have happened in another town, many miles away, but for the more than 200 people gathered at the 9/11 darden of Reflection in iower Makefield Sunday night it could just have easily have happened here, in communities not all that different from Newtown, Conn.
Parents held their children close and teachers hugged as Makefield Elementary School Principal Donna McCormick-Miller and Edgewood Elementary School Principal Michelle Spack read the names of the children and school staff members taken on Dec. 14.
As each name broke the quiet of the evening, local teachers and 9/11 widow Ellen Saracini lit torches of remembrance, reflection and love encircling the gathering.
“We come here on this chilly night to this beautiful memorial to the victims of one infamous attack to mourn those who fell in another,” said State Rep. Steve Santarsiero, his words echoing through the memorial site built to remember those who died in the 9/11 attacks.
“We also stand here to pay tribute to the brave women who honored the profession for which they were called by sacrificing their own lives to protect the children in their charge,” he said.
“We shall not forget their valor or the young lives that were ended far too soon,” said Santarsiero, urging everyone to make a commitment “that when we leave this place we will put aside our differences and work together to take every action possible to help prevent this tragedy from happening again.”
r.S. Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick said in the wake of the shooting, Americans have responded with a generous and giving spirit – “almost as if our entire nation has wrapped its arms around that community in a very loving embrace.”
Fitzpatrick spoke about the “tremendous acts of courage and selflessness” that occurred on that tragic day, of teachers who barricaded doors and hid children in closets.
“These acts of selflessness and the willingness of these educators to place themselves in front of a certain fate in order to protect their children is the legacy we need to remember out of this tragedy,” he said.
As the strains of “Silent Night” and “iet There Be Peace on Earth” drifted through the air, a sea of candles cast the entranceway to the garden memorial in a warm yellow glow, flickering like a swarm of fireflies that had suddenly been released into the darkness.
One small flame flicking in the dark, said the Rev. Douglas Hoglund, seems completely overwhelmed by the immense darkness of this tragedy. “Yet,” said the Woodside Presbyterian Church pastor, “it can ignite a sea of light as long as others willingly step forward to pass it on … let us light a candle and push back the darkness by spreading its flame.”
Hoglund, his voice quivering with emotion, said Robby Parker “lit us a candle and showed us the way.
“The light of his daughter, Emily, a bright, creative very loving six year old was taken away,” he said.
When his daughter’s light was “put out,” Hoglund said her father could have cursed the darkness. But instead, he chose to light a candle.
“He offered his deepest condolences to all of the families affected by the shooting,” said Hoglund.
“He said, ‘We want everyone to know our hearts and our prayers go out to everyone, this includes the family of the shooter.’
The pastor continued, “He said, ‘I cannot imagine how hard this experience might be for you and I want you to know that our family and our love and our support go out to you as well.’
“And then he spoke to all of us,” said Hoglund, again quoting Parker. “‘iet not this become something that defines us, but something that inspires us to be better, to be more compassionate and more humble people. My daughter Emily would be one of the first ones to be standing and giving her love and support to all of those victims because that’s the type of person she is, not because of any parenting but because those are gifts that were given to her by her heavenly father.’
“iet us ask our Heavenly Father to give us the same light that burned so brightly in Emily and let us pass it on,” said Hoglund.