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By DAVID BORAKS
It was a somber moment as the sun set Saturday night outside Davidson Elementary School, where the community came together to remember those who died in Friday’s shootings at an another elementary school, in Newtown, Conn. About 125 parents, students and staff, elected officials, clergy, and public safety officers held candles and listened as the names of the dead were read aloud, a handbell ringing after each name.
The candle-light vigil was organized by families from the school and included remarks from local clergy as well as a couple of local students. It came as people across the area struggled to make sense of the tragedy.
Twenty children and six adults died when a 20-year-old man in combat gear fought his way into Sandy Hook Elementary School and opened fire with a semi-automatic weapon. Police there say a 20-year-old man forced his way into the school and started shooting Friday morning, then took his own life.
The Rev. Lib McGregor Simmons of Davidson College Presbyterian Church and the Rev. Jody Seymour of Davidson United Methodist Church led the vigil, which lasted about 20 minutes.
In an interview, The Rev. Simmons compared Davidson and Newtown – “two small beautiful communities, good schools, good neighbors.” The children of Newtown who lost their lives are “our children too,” she said.
“This says to us that life involves some suffering, it involves lots of deep questions, and so we stand together, during a time like this and hold on to each other. And we keep remembering and acting out this connection with each other,” she said.
The Rev. Seymour tried to offer solace, reading a bible verse and telling the crowd: “In the midst of all the pain that we all feel we must hold on to a god of all people, especially the god of children. We must believe that in the midst of this horror, that God will take those children’s lives whom he first gave to us and he will complete those lives.”
Andrew Noble, a local student, read a passage about hope: “In a world filled with hate, we must still dare to hope. In a world filled with anger, we must dare to comfort, in a world filled with despair, we must still dare to dream, in a world filled with distrust we must still dare to believe.”
There was a moment of silence, and the gathering ended with a tribute to the victims of Sandy Hook Elementary. Mayor John Woods read the names of the dead as Davidson Elementary PTO’s Stephanie Shryock rang a handbell.
Organizer Mary Helms ended the vigil by thanking those who helped. And she spoke a thought on many parents’ minds in the past 24 hours: “I know we’re all going to go home tonight and hug our kids a lot tighter. ”
As gathering broke up, the Rev. Simmons said we must continue to reflect on what happened in Connecticut, saying the tragedy makes it clear the nation has work to do.
“We’ve got to look at lots of different issues, that have to do with … gun control all the way to mental illness and all of that in the days ahead. .. But these problems won’t solve themselves. We have to be neighbors to each other and solve them for each other,” she said.
Meanwhile, Davidson Elementary Principal Dana Jarrett said after the vigil that the school won’t discuss the shootings with children – leaving that up to parents. Instead, teachers will get right back to their classes. “School on Monday morning will be business as usual,” Mr. Jarrett said.
On Friday, Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools issued a statement saying that local police and schools work closely to ensure security, and all schools have crisis plans and evacuation maps.
Meanwhile, other groups around the area are organizing events as well. Local Unitarian Universalist congregations are putting together an event for Sunday night. If you have information to share about events or thoughts about the tragedy in Connecticut, leave a comment below or email me, firstname.lastname@example.org.
DAVIDSON COLLEGE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH, 101 N. Main St. – In addition to the prayers which will be offered at the regularly scheduled 8:30 and 11 a.m. worship services on Sunday, Dec. 16, Davidson College Presbyterian Church will offer a time of prayer and reflection on the Newtown, CT, tragedy in Lingle Chapel from 10-10:30 a.m. on Sunday, Dec. 16. The public is invited.
DAVIDSON UNITED METHODIST CHURCH Chapel, South Main St.- Service of Hope and Healing, Sunday, Dec. 16, 7 pm. in the Chapel. Church services on Sunday will discuss the tragedy in the context of the news shared to lowly shepherds. It’s also a musical Sunday, according to the Rev. Jody Seymour. “Yes, we will still sing the song that proclaims the ‘good news’ of Christmas. We need to hear that song more than ever because it is the song of a child sent into this world for all our joys – but also for all our sorrows,” the Rev. Seymour said in an email to church members.