Kindness flows towards Newtown

By Denise Coffey - Staff Writer
Regional - posted Thu., Dec. 20, 2012
Baskets contain sympathy notes for Newtown families at a vigil at St. Mary Church of the Visitation in Putnam.
Baskets contain sympathy notes for Newtown families at a vigil at St. Mary Church of the Visitation in Putnam.

A variety of faith leaders took to the stage in Newtown, Conn., on Dec. 16, to offer sympathy and solace, guidance and prayer following the tragedy that took the lives of 26 innocents at Sandy Hook Elementary School two days earlier. Baha'i, Catholics, Congregationalists, Episcopalians, Jews, Lutherans, Methodists and Muslims came to offer prayers and words of comfort to a community ripped apart by loss.

Reverends, chaplains, ministers, monsignors, rabbis and priests offered their heartfelt prayers respectfully, because they were full of grief themselves.

Voices cracked and wavered, but the addresses went on, the prayers were said, the words finished, the songs sung. Rabbi Shaul Praver from the Congregation Adath Israel sang the El Moleh Rachamim, a funeral prayer for the ascension of the souls of the dead. The emotion in his voice as he sang the mournful dirge was clear, even though he sang in Hebrew, words that few in the audience understood.

Brooklyn resident Naomi Weiner, who said she cried for days after hearing the news of the massacre, watched the service. “The camaraderie among the clergy was amazing. That's the way it should be,” she said. “The service gave respect and dignity that each of them deserved. There was a definite feeling that we are all in this together. I thought it was beautiful.”

Jason Graves from the Al Hedaya Islamic Center in Newtown choked up as he read a prayer at the memorial service. “The artificial divisions of faith will fall away to reveal a nation of mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, all united in a desire to bring healing and renewed hope,” he said. “Let us of every faith pray for God's comfort.”

Seventh-grade student Muadh Bhavnagarwala sang from the Koran for the audience. “I did it for the children and their families and loved ones,” he said. “I could just not imagine it. I truly feel for them. I did it from the bottom of my heart.”

A nationwide outpouring of support has come not only from faith leaders, however. People from all walks of life, in all manner of occupations, have felt moved to act in solidarity with the Connecticut community. When NBC news correspondent Ann Curry asked herself if there was anything she could do, she came up with the idea of performing 26 acts of kindness in memory of the victims. (Use Twitter hashtag #26acts, or visit Facebook page “26 acts of kindness” to learn more).

Providence College basketball coach Ed Cooley had team jerseys made with “Sandy Hook” emblazoned on the back. “I couldn't watch this without being moved,” he's reported as saying.

Nine-year-old rapper Amor Arteagu included a memorial to the victims on his video, “Stop Da Violence.” “It's time we all came together,” the boy said.

Sterling, Conn., resident June Bonner said she was in a daze until she decided to do something. “It won't be a lot,” she said. “I'm not a rich person. I can't come up with money for every family, but I sure can pray for them. I have to make some kind of closure in my heart because I just can't stop thinking about it.” She organized a vigil for Dec. 22 at the Sterling Town Hall. A wreath was made, and a balloon release, singing and fellowship were planned.

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