As the church bells on the New Haven Green chimed at 6 p.m. this evening, roughly 500 Yalies and New Haven residents gathered on the Green to commemorate the 27 lives lost in yesterday’s elementary school shooting in Newtown, Conn.
Holding brightly lit candles to the sky, the mourners listened as several clergymen and speakers emphasized the need for unity and action in the face of Friday’s tragedy. At one point, the crowd began singing in unison, repeating the phrase, “Never give up, never give in.”
“I asked everyone to come out to share their condolences — to know that they are not alone at this time, that people across the world feel their pain,” said Keya Youins, a New Haven resident who helped organize the vigil, as she held back tears. “Everyone showed up. It’s a beautiful thing.”
As mourners arrived at the vigil, they gathered in groups between the lit Christmas tree and the flagpole. Some of the group, gathered in a circle, listened as others stepped forward to speak on the shooting and the process of healing to come. Candles were passed through the crowd and lit by those in attendance. Community members present said attending the vigil, which was hosted by Interfaith Cooperative Ministries, was a small act they hoped would begin the process of healing.
“I thought it was a coming together point for the community,” said Josh Clapper ’16, who attended the vigil. “It shows us what to be thankful for right now. It’s awful, but we need to take time to figure out what should be done … [and] work on a solution.”
At one point during the New Haven vigil, Interfaith Cooperative Ministries President and Reverend John Gage ’92 stood to speak. Asking the crowd to move in closer to the flagpole where he stood, Gage stressed the connection shared between New Haven residents and those in Newtown, saying “[the purpose of the vigil was] to sit in the darkness with our neighbors who have experienced unimaginable pain.”
Reverend Tracy Johnson Russell of St. Andrews Episcopal Church said “healing and action go hand in hand,” adding that “grief should spur us to make a change.”
In prepared remarks delivered from his Hartford office and broadcast throughout the state this afternoon, Gov. Dannel Malloy alluded to a forthcoming debate on gun laws, saying, “there will be time soon for a discussion of the public policy issues surrounding yesterday’s events.”
At the end of tonight’s vigil, those in attendance blew out their candles and told friends and strangers alike, “peace be with you.” The flag, raised only to half-mast, still hung limply in the cold.