Choose a Newtown victim to remember forever, Nashua crowd urged at candlelight vigil
NASHUA - Nearly 170 miles away from a grieving Connecticut community, local residents gathered peacefully on Monday to share their sorrow, heartache and tears.
Twenty-seven candles were placed outside Nashua's City Hall Monday night, each of them representing an innocent life that was lost last Friday during a mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
The names of the victims - including 20 young children and six school employees - were read aloud while handmade Christmas ornaments with their individual names were hung on a small tree.
Honoring the brave students and selfless teachers whose lives abruptly ended during a routine school day, silence filled City Hall Plaza last night where a crowd of about 200 people came together to mourn with the community of Newtown, Conn.
"You came here for whatever it is in your hearts," Mayor Donnalee Lozeau told the crowd. "It is hard to get over, and I don't know we should get over it."
Attendees were encouraged to remember the names of the 27 people murdered in that town last week - not to focus on the man responsible for the massacre.
"If you do know that man's name, erase it from your mind," said Jonathan Thyne, organizer of the candlelight vigil.
As the youngest victims of the school gunman are laid to rest this week, New Hampshire residents were asked to pick one of the victims' names and remember it forever.
"Light a candle for that person and let it burn," Thyne said.
Dozens of people signed a banner that will be delivered to Newtown, Conn., later this week. Residents shared heartfelt messages with the community that, according to Thyne, will never be the same.
"Unfortunately, this is a blemish on their history that will never be erased," he said.
As the nation and the world tries to cope with the reality of what happened, so do elementary school children throughout New Hampshire, according to Lozeau, who addressed the issue with a group of third-graders on Monday in Hudson. Several children were unaware of the mass shooting until being told of the tragedy by their peers, said Lozeau, questioning how to tell innocent, young children about such horrific violence.
"The chaos that had to happen in that school - I just can't even imagine, and I pray we never have to," said Lozeau. "Remember that in a school already locked down, this tragedy happened. In a school that was prepared, this tragedy happened."
As tears have been shed across the country this past weekend because of the murders, Joe Klanagan of Litchfield said he was glad to have a venue to come and show his respect. Bringing his two young daughters to the candlelight vigil, Klanagan said the least he could do is stand in the cold to mourn the babies who will never return home to their parents.
"Having children in times like these makes you realize just how precious they really are," he added.
Vicki Skotz of Nashua agreed, saying the candlelight vigil was a great way to unite grieving families who aren't sure how to handle their emotions - even 170-miles away from the tragedy.