TERRE HAUTE —
A brief but emotional vigil at a local elementary school illuminated the darkening sky Sunday evening.
Members of the Benjamin Franklin Elementary School Parent-Teacher Organization hosted an impromptu candlelight vigil in honor of 20 schoolchildren and six adults killed Friday at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut. About 100 participants streamed into the school’s grassy lawn before 5:30 p.m. as the sunlight dissipated into night.
Patrick Gainer, a grandfather of six children under the age of 10, expressed disbelief at the sights that responders and parents must have faced Friday in Connecticut.
The bodies of 20 dead children and six teachers, he said, is an unthinkable horror to behold.
“It all happened so quickly, I just hope they didn’t suffer too much,” he said, referring to the children as “babies.”
But violence is all too common these days, and Gainer remarked that from the massacre at Columbine High School in 1999, to the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, to killings at West Virginia Tech University, it just seems to keep spiraling.
“It’s over and over and over again. When is it going to stop?” he posed, shaking his head.
Papers with the names and ages of each of Friday’s victims hung an evergreen tree in the school’s front yard. Parents brought children of all ages to the event, driving up in minivans, cars, trucks and scooters alike.
Addey Strong, president of the school’s PTO, said the purpose was to communicate to residents of Newtown, Conn., that they’re not alone in their grief.
“Let us not only mourn the loss of innocent people, but let us learn from them as well,” she said. “Even though we do not know them personally, today we are all connected.”
A balloon was released for each of the victims, as their name and age were read aloud. A string of 6-year-olds’ names brought tears to the eyes of parents holding candles, and Strong added a final two balloons on behalf of the shooter’s family.
“And we have these too as prayers for the Lanza family,” she said, referencing the accused gunman, Adam Lanza, who reportedly killed himself during the incident. Investigators believe he also killed his mother, Nancy, before going to the school.
Honey Creek Middle School student Mariah McKillop read a poem after a moment of silence and before the group sang “Amazing Grace.” The vigil lasted about 15 minutes, but participants lingered for a while with their candles yet burning.
“It’s important to honor those that lost their lives,” she said.
Brian Boyce can be reached at 812-231-4253 or firstname.lastname@example.org.