As the one-year anniversary of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting approaches, the State College community will have its own opportunity to mourn the loss of the 26 lives violently taken last winter in Newtown, Conn.
Aviva Doery, a freshman in Penn State’s Schreyer Honors College, came up with the idea of holding a candlelight vigil on Saturday’s one-year anniversary to honor the victims and their families.
Doery is originally from Newtown and volunteers for the Sandy Hook Promise, a national nonprofit started by the Newtown community that is focused on turning the tragedy into a moment of transformation.
Anne Ready, of State College, has taken over as head coordinator for the vigil.
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“The idea to have a candlelight vigil originated with Aviva. When I asked her if I could help with the event, she told me that for various reasons she could not be in charge of it, so I volunteered to spearhead it,” Ready said.
Although the vigil likely will be their most significant event to date, Doery, Ready and others have been working to help support the Newtown community in many other ways.
“We have been putting up green and white ribbons on people’s trees so people can show their love and support for the families. People have also signed cards, which included words of love and support for the Sandy Hook families, which we have sent to the Newtown community group, Sandy Hook Promise,” said Ready.
Ready also created a website, greenandwhiteribbonpa.org, to spread the word about the vigil and to give people a way to show their support and connect with other members of the community.
Local churches have been helpful in donating resources for the event.
“We have contacted many of the faith communities in our area, including churches involved in Interfaith Human Services as well as at least a dozen other congregations. Quite a number of them have donated money. They have also put up a green and white ribbon in front of their churches, as well as at their residences,” said Ready.
St. Paul’s United Methodist Church in State College is lending 20 chairs for use in the vigil.
On the night of the vigil, the stage is planned to be set with six empty adult-sized chairs and 20 child-size chairs to represent the victims. The Penn State choir, Essence of Joy, will sing and several community members will speak and read poems. Doery will then read off the names of those lost as a candle is placed on the empty chair corresponding to each name.
The main goal of the vigil is to honor and remember the children and teachers whose lives were taken with such violent force.
“First and foremost, we want to send love and support to the Newtown community. We hope to have a special moment, where our community can feel a part of a larger community across the United States, which includes all the other communities who will also be holding special events to show their love and support for those families who lost their loved ones on that day. Without sounding too corny, we hope that each individual will reflect in their own personal way what this means to them and what part they can play in bringing peace, love and healing to the world,” said Ready.
Although commemorating the victims is Ready’s main goal for the evening, there is another important and more personal aspect of the vigil she hopes to bring attention to.
Since the mass shooting, the issue of gun control has sparked debates across the country.
The vigil is only one step toward a brighter future for Ready. She plans to continue to spread awareness about gun violence and to help others who wish to get involved in the cause.
“As a mother, I cannot imagine a more horrible scenario than the one that happened last December 14. I know that I would want something positive to come out of this gruesome tragedy, to know that my child or loved one did not die in vain,” she said.