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‘We are not OK’: Newtown vigil offers solidarity with Uvalde after Texas school shooting

Tyler Russell
Connecticut Public
The Newtown Action Alliance and the Newtown Interfaith Council hosted a vigil Thursday night at Trinity Episcopal Church in Newtown, Conn., to stand with the Uvalde community.

People across Newtown gathered at a vigil Thursday evening to offer solidarity with people in Uvalde, Texas, the scene of this week’s mass shooting at an elementary school.

The Texas shooting – in which 19 students and two teachers were killed – resonated deeply in Newtown, where 20 children and six adults were killed in 2012 in a mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

People filled Trinity Episcopal Church in Newtown, where they heard from various faith leaders.

“We gather to offer to our neighbors in Uvalde, in Buffalo, in so many places, the hard wisdom that this town has gained in almost 10 years of suffering,” said Rev. Andrea Castner Wyatt with Trinity Episcopal. “We offer our compassion, our heartbreak, our support, to our friends in Texas as you begin to walk a road folks in this town know so well.”

Newtown Vigil
Tyler Russell
Connecticut Public
Mariam Azeez spoke at the vigil about how the events of Sandy Hook changed her life profoundly, and how from that moment on she grew up feeling the burden to do something to ensure it would never happen again.

Wyatt told the audience that it was important to come together regardless of differences, religious expression or political persuasion.

“It's important to come together across all of that, because we are in terrible pain,” she said. “Memories here are raised. We feel searing anger that tragedies are incessant. We feel despair. We don't understand the nation we used to know. We have moments we'd rather give up.”

The Newtown Action Alliance and the Newtown Interfaith Council hosted the vigil “to stand with the Uvalde community.”

At the vigil, Newtown teenager Mariam Azeez took to the podium to read a poem she wrote about the Newtown shooting 10 years ago. She was 6 years old when the Sandy Hook shooting happened.

Through her poetry, Azeez was identifying wishes the 20 Sandy Hook children made before they were killed. Like the wish of 6-year-old Ben Wheeler, who wanted to become a lighthouse guard.

“When I grow up, I’ll become a lighthouse guard. When I grow up, I’ll become a …”

Azeez paused.

“I don’t know all too much about the world and its complexities. I don’t know all too much about our functions in society and your policies, but I do know this, every baby bee in this hive has said these words: when I grow up. When will we let them grow up?”

U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal was among the speakers. The Connecticut Democrat hinted at action at the federal level for new gun legislation.

“We have begun 10 days’ worth of conversation and negotiation that we hope will produce some agreement and a path forward, will produce some measures to help stop gun violence, will produce action," he said.

It’s not clear yet what will happen in Congress, but Blumenthal indicated movement on matters like background checks and red flag legislation.

After the vigil, attendees exited the church and held candles as they walked down Main Street to a national firearms trade association headquartered in Newtown. When they got there, they addressed reporters.

One of them – Jordan Gomes – was a fourth grader at Sandy Hook on Dec. 14, 2012.

Gomes recommends that survivors of the Uvalde shooting take time for themselves – to wait a moment before taking action against gun violence.

“We cannot be simply living in America where kids can go to school with the fear of never seeing their parents again, with watching their friends pass away,” Gomes said. “It is horrifying, and it must stop.”

Newtown Vigil
Tyler Russell
Connecticut Public
Po Murray, chairman of the Newtown Action Alliance, leads a march from the vigil to the National Shooting Sports Foundation headquarters, also in Newtown, Conn.

If you read any of Frankie Graziano’s previous biographies, they’d be all about his passion for sports. But times change – and he’s a family man now.