Vigil for New­town, Conn. spreads light of heal­ing

The Advance of Bucks County - - YARDLEY-MORRISVILLE AREA - By Jeff Werner

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.

Pho­to­graphs by Jeff Gold­berg

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