By Mike Chaiken
There were sad memories of a sad day.
However, there also were laughs.
Plus, there was sun… and, of course, butterflies.
On Saturday, the center of Plantsville was packed with families as the hard work of two Southington women, Lisa Wrubleski and Erin Furniss, came to fruition with Because of 26.
The events in Plantsville center and along the Rails to Trails of Southington was intended as a tribute to the 20 students and six teachers who were gunned down at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Dec. 14. The event, which included singing, words for state and town leaders, and the release of butterflies, was intended to coincide with the six month anniversary on Friday.
Looking at the strong turnout for the event, which five months earlier had only been a nugget of an idea, Wrubleski said, “We’re so lucky to be raising our children in such a caring and kind community like this.”
“I hope today will inspire you to be more kind and caring,” said Wrubleski.
Wrubleski said not only did support for the event come from within the Southington community but from the state, the nation, and the world.
Furniss said the business community within Southington was especially supportive of the efforts around Because of 26. Even before the committee members for Because of 26 could finish their pitch for help, the businesses would stop them and ask, “What can I do to help?”
Dr. Joseph Erardi, the Southington school superintendent, issued two challenges on Saturday, one to the children and one to the adults.
To the children, the school superintendent said, he wanted them on Sunday to practice one act of kindness. And then they should do so again on Monday, to make it two days in a row. He then asked the children to email him and tell him, “This is what I did.”
For the adults, Erardi asked them to think of someone with whom they were in conflict. He then asked the adults to call this person, have a conversation, and finally resolve the conflict.
U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy both attended the events of Because of 26.
Blumenthal, looking over the large crowd on the Plantsville green said, “You are beautiful… this is a picture worth a 1,000 words… You will light a candle that will celebrate kindness and generosity… (Show the world) you will not surrender to the darkness.”
“Because of 26, we will do better,” said Blumenthal. “We will make America safer. We will make America a better place.”
When the tragedy of Newtown happened, noted Malloy, the state was still in the middle winter. And due to the events of Dec. 14, he said he looked forward to spring “when the trees come out… (Spring) will remind us of the souls we lost that day… the contributions of teachers who ran into danger to save these children. (Spring) would remind us of all the potential of those children who died that day.”
After so many days of rain the past week, Malloy noted, “This is a beautiful day… the sun is shining today because God wanted it to shine on a day like this.”
Malloy said when those attending Because of 26 think of the events at Newtown “hug a child.”
After the guests had their say at the green, a group of children stepped forward with butterflies to be released in memory of the children and their teachers who died on Dec. 14.
In addition to the ceremony on the Plantsville green, guests were invited to walk the trails. Along the way, the children were encouraged to use chalk to draw butterflies and words of kindnesses. The children also could have their faces painted with butterflies, plant some plants along the trail, view a mural painted by area artists in tribute to the lives lost in Newport, visit the butterfly bushes, listen to some live music, and collect knitted butterflies hanging from the trees and bushes that were sent in from all around the world for Because of 26.