In both Ellington and Somers, vigils were held to remember and honor the victims, and show support for the first responders and families affected by the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.
On Saturday evening, several residents gathered in the gazebo on the green to offer prayers and reflect upon what had happened.
Residents Sean Lynch and his fiancé Allison Margelony have a 2-year-old son and the events in Newtown hit them hard. They wanted to do something so they came up with the idea for a candlelight vigil and a Teddy Bear collection.
Don Bailey-Francois, senior pastor of the Ellington Congregational Church, got looped in on the idea and came over to offer the prayer and lead the vigil. At the gathering, approximately 50 Teddy Bears were collected.
The Redding Congregational Church, in the town next to Newtown, had already organized a drive and these bears will be brought to them to add to the collection. Bears will be collected all week at Ellington Congregational Church.
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One Teddy Bear that was brought to the vigil was brought by Bailey-Francois. He said that the bear is a gift that he gave his daughter Danielle when she was seven. She is now 27.
He said that the bear has remained at his house and represents the hearts held between them while they are apart. They decided together to give the bear to the children of Newtown and to share their hearts with the children there. Bailey-Francois said that he hopes that the love will continue where there is heartache.
After the gathering on the green, the sanctuary at the church was open for a little bit for anyone who wanted to sit and reflect for a little longer.
The church will now include a communal prayer and remembrance aspect to its annual Blue Christmas Service. That service will to be held on Wednesday, at 7:30 p.m. at the Ellington Congregational Church.
On Sunday, the residents in Somers gathered in the auditorium at the town hall – filling it to standing-room only.
First Selectwoman Lisa Pellegrini, who was very emotional, opened by telling the people that it’s an understatement to say that everyone has been affected by the tragedy at the school.
“We are all mourning the loss of 20 beautiful children and six wonderful adults, whose lives were cut way too short,” she said. “It is incomprehensible to imagine the sorrow and despair the families are feeling. We cannot help but watch the tragedy unfold without crying and asking, ‘Why?’ And then you have that feeling of helplessness that leads us to thinking, ‘What can we do during this dark hour?’”
She said the first reaction is to reach out to those you love and then branch out from there. Pellegrini noted that the Somers community is a support system and has been through a lot together.
She said that it is her hope that by gathering, as a strong community, Somers is able to send a unified message of love, support, and strength to the residents in Newtown.
The leaders from all four churches in town – the Somers Congregational Church, All Saints Catholic Church, the Congregational Church of Somersville, and the Somers Baptist Church – were all on hand and offered some words of comfort, healing, and food for thought.
Admittedly, nobody had a good answer to the question everyone wants to know – why? The religious leaders told the people to find comfort in each other and the community.
The evening was closed with everyone singing Let There be Peace on Earth.