New London’s elected officials, school administrators, and religious leaders spoke to a large group of residents on Friday as they reflected on the tragic events in Newtown.
The vigil was arranged by New London Parent Advocates, whose children attend New London Public Schools. Mongi Dhaouadi, a member of the group, said the event was organized once the full extent of Friday’s shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School was known. Police say suspected gunman Adam Lanza, 20, killed 20 children, six adults—including the school’s principal and Lanza's mother, who was a teacher at the school—and another adult at a “secondary scene” in the state before taking his own life.
“The whole community is crying and there is nothing we can do other than to try to console each other, pray together,” said Dhaouadi. “We all come from different backgrounds, but I can’t believe there is any parent that isn’t feeling what we’re all feeling tonight.”
Mayor Daryl Finizio said the city stands in solidarity with Newtown. He said teachers at the school demonstrated acts of heroism and that the shootings at the school put day-to-day disagreements and arguments into perspective.
“We gather tonight as a community amidst tragedy as we all try to make sense of a senseless act,” he said.
People within the school system spoke emotionally about incident. Laurelle Texidor, principal of Jennings Elementary School, and Richard Baez, president of the teachers’ union New London Education Association, said educators try to ensure the safety and security of children within their care during the school year.
“This is our nightmare,” said Baez. “Your children are entrusted to us for a brief period of time, and we do what you do at home. We parent them in school.”
“Through the day the phrase that ran through my mind was, ‘How can this be, Lord, how can this be?’” said Texidor.
Rev. Paul Hayes of the Noank Baptist Church said the memories of those killed on Friday will live on through their loved ones. He said that while the slayings lead to a longing for justice, communities must work toward overall improvements.
“The evil can be countered by the amount of good we are willing to extend,” he said.
Some speakers said the incident demonstrates the need for stronger gun control laws. State Rep. Ernest Hewett said he heard a comment on the news that the shootings, like other mass killings this year, may be forgotten in a short period of time. He said people must continue to express concerns and outrage about gun violence.
“We have gun laws that need to be passed that aren’t being passed, because we have people who want to go duck hunting with AK-47s,” said Hewett. “Maybe it’s not the right time to say it, but it needs to be said.”
Anthony Nolan, a city councilor and police officer, said people must be willing to express their emotions and let children know it is OK to do the same. Nolan also said he was disturbed by what emergency responders at the shooting scene must have experienced.
“I couldn’t imagine what they were going through and what was on their minds as they tried to help and weren’t able to,” he said.
The New London Public Schools will be providing counselors and psychologists for students to discuss the Newtown shooting on Monday. The following school psychologists are also taking calls over the weekend from students, parents, or staff members affected by the incident:
- Dr. Kristie Fresco-Hawes, 860-705-6625
- Amanda Magleby, 860-638-9309
- Kaylee Siddall, 860-459-8027
- Dr. Christine Sipala, 203-859-0189