Candlelight and umbrellas mark city vigil for Newtown victims

Hundreds of people gathered under umbrellas in front of Milford City Hall Sunday night to draw strength from friends and city leaders as they mourned a tragedy that has struck the nation.

“We gather to comfort and console,” said the Rev. Kenneth Fellenbaum as he looked out at the sea of umbrellas that stretched past the midway mark of the small green in front of City Hall.

He said the rain was appropriate for the vigil, describing the rain as “teardrops from heaven.”

Communities around the state and nation held vigils in the days following the tragic shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown. Churches also took time to reflect on the acts during weekend services.

Mayor Ben Blake spoke to the residents at the City Hall vigil, commenting that the nation has seen too many senseless acts of violence. But this is different because of the loss of innocence, he said. The mayor suggested people draw strength from celebrating the heroes, the teachers and the first responders. And he suggested people “love deeper, laugh louder and not take the lives of loved ones for granted.”

State Sen. Gayle Slossberg’s voice sounded tinged with anguish as she spoke from the steps of City Hall.

She talked of “gut wrenching grief” for the children who died, and the awe she felt hearing about teachers who put themselves in front of their students to try to save them.

She talked about the school principal who ran toward the gunman, not away from him.

“Tragedy has been very busy these days,” Slossberg said, adding that it is a good time to reach out to people in need — the elderly, the lonely — anyone who needs help.

The crime that took place Friday was a shock to educators whose goal it is to teach children in a safe environment, School Supt. Dr. Elizabeth Feser said when she took the microphone at Sunday’s candlelight vigil.

She said she sees some hope in the way people have come together since the tragedy, and in the way they have reached out to the people of Newtown.

Feser closed her comments with an Eskimo proverb:

“Perhaps they are not stars, but rather openings in heaven where the love of our lost ones pours through and shines down upon us to let us know they are happy.”