Westporters Gather, Honor Newtown Victims

Hundreds of Westporters gathered in the Town Hall Auditorium on Sun., Dec. 16 to remember the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings.

The Candlelight Vigil began at 4 p.m. and ended at 4:30 p.m. More than 300 people, including many Staples students, attended to honor those lost. As the auditorium was full by 4:08 p.m., another crowd gathered on Veterans Green.

Many Staples students attended, including Sam Ellinwood ’14. “I thought it’d be good to go there to honor the [victims of the] Newtown [tragedy],” he said. “I really enjoyed what [the speakers] had to say.”

Johnny Bairaktaris ’16 also went to support Newtown, saying, “I wish I could’ve helped the firefighters and police officers.” Of the students and teachers who were killed, he added, “They didn’t do anything wrong. They didn’t have to die.”

Others who tried to attend the vigil but weren’t let in because Town Hall was packed held another vigil across the street despite the rain. August Laska ’13 decided to go to the vigil because, as he said, “I want to do as much for Newtown as possible, and I thought this was a good way to start.”

Melony Malkin ’14, also wanted to show her support for Newtown, saying, “We weren’t able to show our support directly, but, with the vigil, we were.” She said the vigil “made me feel connected to the [shootings] and close to everyone there.”

“I was really glad that our town made [the vigil] happen and brought everyone together,” said Malkin.

Not everyone who would like to support the Newtown community was able to attend the vigil. Patty McQuone wasn’t able to attend. “I wanted to,” she said, but she couldn’t “because I’ve been sick since Saturday and can barely function when I get home.” McQuone does still plan to go to the wake for Victoria Soto, a teacher who died protecting her students from gunman Adam Lanza.

Brian Saunders ’14 couldn’t go to the vigil due to an obligation, though he still expressed his support for the Newtown victims.

Clay Andrews ’13 didn’t go to the vigil either because, like many others, he hadn’t heard it had been planned. “I didn’t know about it,” he said.

Those who were there listened on as the vigil began with a reading of an Elie Weisel poem: “We begin with silence / The silence of death, the silence of life, / The silence after tragedy.” Then the names of the victims at Sandy Hook Elementary were read, and rabbis and ministers prayed for aid in this sorrowful time.

Gatherers were clearly sad as mourners wiped away tears. The crowd, led by clergymen, sang “God Bless America.”

The Interfaith Clergy Association of Westport and Weston organized the vigil, and many religious leaders spoke.

Westport First Selectman Gordon Joseloff and Weston First Selectman Gayle Weinstein also gave speeches. Joseloff commented, “Newtown has been inundated with support” and Weinstein said, “It could’ve been us.”