• Rutland joins statewide vigil to remember Newtown school shooting
    By Patrick McArdle
    STAFF WRITER | December 15,2013
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    More than two dozen communities across Vermont held vigils Saturday in remembrance of the 20 students and six adults who were killed in a shooting spree one year ago at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

    The vigils were organized by Gun Sense Vermont, a group that advocates for firearms controls — including expanded background checks and stricter gun-trafficking laws — which members say would make Vermonters safer.

    In this region, memorial events were held Saturday in Rutland, Middlebury, Springfield, Hartland, Putney and Norwich.

    In Rutland, about 30 people took part in a solemn noontime vigil at Grace Congregational United Church of Christ to remember the killing rampage that took place Dec. 14, 2012, in the Newtown elementary school, claiming 26 lives and shocking many Americans.

    The Rev. Tracy Weatherhogg, associate minister at the church, also spoke briefly about Friday’s shooting at a high school in Colorado as a reminder of the “pain and loss” suffered because of the Connecticut shootings one year ago.

    Despite the bitter cold, attendees at the vigil stood silently, some with tears in their eyes, as Weatherhogg led the group in prayer.

    Kathy Ross, a member of the church, said there weren’t any Gun Sense representatives at the Rutland event, but the group had suggested the local vigil.

    Afterward, Ross handed out fliers with 26 suggested “acts of kindness” inspired by the lives of those who died in Newtown.

    “We are happy to be able to provide something that provides a remembrance of each victim and gives some thought to who they were, what their lives could have been like and to respond nonviolently, to (suggest) an act of kindness, to share some love,” Ross said.

    Mary Crowley, a retired teacher, provided some artwork, displayed at the vigil, created to convey the pain and loss felt by those affected by the shooting.

    “I loved teaching and I understood that school was the place that some people loved more than they loved their homes,” she said. “When I heard about (the shooting in Newtown,) I was horrified, so I had to do something.”

    Woodstock resident Alan Perkins expressed strong feelings in favor of gun control after the vigil.

    “I’m one of these here liberal-type people who’s opposed to the (National Rifle Association) and the military and all that,” he said. “It’s all part of the same thing. The country, to me, has a very long-standing interest and desire to solve its problems.”

    Perkins said Adam Lanza, the shooter in the Newtown incident, and his mother, Nancy, who Lanza killed before going to Sandy Hook, should be considered victims of gun violence as well.

    “There’s violence everywhere and I’m sick and tired of it,” he said.

    Weatherhogg said she understood why people wanted to come together in the aftermath of violence that affects children.

    “It moves people to think and wish that things are not the way that they are, and for them to be a different way,” she said.

    The church has a “Jubilee Justice committee,” which organized the local vigil, but the Rev. John Weatherhogg, senior mister at Grace, said the committee has an uphill battle in Vermont when it comes to gun violence.

    “How do you speak to the issue of profound gun violence in a state that relishes its freedom to bear arms?” he said. “How do you speak intelligently with an air toward justice for all to people for whom having guns is a way of life? I think that will be the challenge as it is around the country.”

    patrick.mcardle@rutlandherald.com
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