Vigil for Newtown victims shows community's heart
By Denise Coffey - Staff Writer
Sterling - posted Fri., Dec. 28, 2012
Fire trucks from the Sterling and Oneco volunteer fire departments rolled slowly into the parking lot at the Sterling Community Center on Dec. 22. Many of the combined force of 50 firefighters came in their dress uniforms to participate in a community vigil for the people of Newtown, Conn. From 9-month-old Charisa LeCompte to 92-year-old Chuck Jordan, the small-town community showed its great heart by remembering those who lost their lives on Dec. 14 at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
With a sky turned gray with clouds and cold, people gathered around the flagpole where a wreath had been placed. The flag stood at half staff, blowing in the bitter wind. A crowd of more than 100 surrounded a makeshift podium. Organizer June Bonner brought candles, but the wind was too strong to light them that evening.
Sterling First Selectman Russell Gray said it was impossible to understand why someone would shoot elementary school students. “May we find comfort in each other tonight as we join in honoring their memory,” he said.
Plainfield First Selectman Paul Sweet quoted Psalm 61. “I will cry unto thee when my heart is overwhelmed,” he read. “The houses of worship were filled this week,” he said. “People came together not just for funerals, but to comfort each other and seek comfort from their creator, to share their grief and to find certainty in a very uncertain situation. This vigil tonight shows the respect that we have for our fellow man, and memorializes the deaths of these innocent people. Above all, when evil casts a pall over such innocence, we seek hope.”
Sweet read the names of the 20 children and six adults killed at the school. Twenty white balloons and six green ones, in colors representing Sandy Hook Elementary School, were released into a biting wind.
Vigil organizer June Bonner said the idea for the event came to her three days after the tragedy. She said there were important reasons people couldn't focus on anything else. “I kept walking around the house in a daze,” she said. “I have my own family. I just can't stop thinking about it.” So she made a few phone calls. She had a wreath made. She got helium-filled balloons to release. The community pitched in. Katie Molodich made 180 green and white ribbons to pin on lapels. Bakers Dozen, Billy's Restaurant, The Gentleman Farmer, Doyles and The Riverview provided doughnuts, wraps, sandwiches and pizza. Grange members baked whoopie pies and cookies. Kyle and Brennan Collins played “Taps.”
Sterling First Selectman Russell Gray praised Bonner for the work she did. “June did a tremendous job,” Gray said. “At times like this, people want to do something. They want to help.”