OSWEGO, NY – Hundreds of Oswegonians gathered in the cold at Breitbeck Park Wednesday evening to remember the lives lost recently at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
They crowded around the Bell Tower in the park to sing songs, pray and grieve together for the more than two dozen victims that they don’t know and yet are as close a family.
“It’s just so sad, so very sad. My heart breaks for the families that have to bury their young children at Christmas time,” said one woman. “We don’t know them. But, we mourn with them. It’s all one big family now; the whole nation is grieving together.”
Rebecca Smith, one of the co-organizers, agreed.
“We were expecting maybe 100 to 150. But now, there looks like so many more here tonight,” she told Oswego County Today. “We just started (organizing) this on Monday; just wanted to get a few people together and mourn. We are mourning as a nation.”
“It’s just horrible that something like this could take place,” event co-organizer Jackie Bruce said of the murderous rampage that left six adults and 20 elementary school children dead. “We hoped for a good turnout, but this is amazing. We just wanted to do something so that we could heal as a community.”
Cassandra Draper, Alex Richards and Sara Kray were part of the crowd.
“We came down to show our support.” Sara said. “It’s awful that that would happen to such a young group of children.”
Lily May Donnell carried a small candle as her mother pushed her in a stroller. She wanted to come down and show her support and honor the victims’ memory, her mother said.
Betty Gray carried two balloons, a heart and a star. They were green and white – the elementary school’s colors.
“We must always remember them,” she said. “And, pray that nothing like this ever happens again.”
The organizers tied 20 green and white balloons to the side of the bell tower for the ceremony.
At the conclusion, they were released into the cold breeze blowing off of Lake Ontario.
“The parents have our support. The families of all the victims, they have the nation’s support. They have the support of the Oswego community,” Smith told the crowd. “It’s so heart-warming that so many people care and feel the need for this vigil. I know, as a parent, how hard it was for me to let my daughter go off to school. I’m sure other parents had the same feeling.”
The purpose of the vigil, she said, was to put aside any differences they might have and get together and heal.
The event began with the reading of the 23rd Psalm. They had a moment of silence to honor the victims and then as each of the victims’ names was read aloud, many in the crowd rang small bells (a reference to the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life” – every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings.)
The crowd sang Amazing Grace and later also sang Santa Claus Is Coming To Town.
“It’s amazing, people are everywhere,” Smith said. “I didn’t expect it to be like this. It’s really amazing. It just goes to show how much this community cares. We we’re concerned about getting any media coverage. It was just a bunch of us wanting to get together, light some candles, say a pray. And the turnout is just amazing. I am so humbled that my community is so caring.”