By Rob Glidden
A large crowd of residents gathered for a candlelight vigil for the victims of the Aurora, Colorado shooting on the steps of the First Congregational Church.
Twelve people were killed and dozens more were injured in Aurora after James Holmes opened fire on a crowded theater during a midnight screening of “The Dark Knight Rises.” The rally was organized by 22-year-old Southington High School graduate Alex Vivian, in cooperation with Rev. Dawn Karlson, the church’s youth minister.
“After the shooting, I saw my friends sending love to Colorado on Facebook,” Vivian said. “It was nice but I thought there must be more we can do.”
Pictures of the dozen victims were placed on the steps of the church. Later in the vigil, candles were lit for each of them while attendees lit their own candles. The ceremony also included speakers reading quotes about non-violence and some low-key music performances.
“We’re tired of the violence that fills our world, our news and our lives,” Karlson said during a prayer. “We can’t help but wonder, when will it stop?”
She noted that people of Vivian’s age were “often not listened to,” while several of the spectators said they were impressed.
“I’m here to support young people who want to take a stand and ask for more peace in the world,” said resident Lynn Grenier.
The event was meant to give moral support to those grieving in Colorado, but Vivian and other speakers also advocated a tougher approach to guns in America. Specifically, he called for the federal ban on assault weapons, which expired in 2004, to be re-instated. The weapons used by Holmes during the massacre would have been banned if this legislation was still active.
“In my lifetime, we have seen too many tragedies like this,” he said. “It’s time to say enough is enough. Handguns and hunting rifles have a place in America. These assault rifles do not. These weapons are not needed on our streets.”
Petitions were passed along through the crowd and the issue was discussed in more detail by Ellen Perkins Simpson of New Britain’s Friendship Center. She spoke about two children she knew who had been recently shot and killed. She also shared an anecdote about police officers who shared their amazement with her about seeing criminals on the streets with weapons as powerful as their own.
“We don’t want to live in a society where kids can’t be safe going to a movie,” Perkins said.
The event was swarmed with television news cameras and Karlson said afterwards that she was pleasantly surprised by the large amount of residents who attended.