YONKERS, N.Y. – It was with heavy hearts that dozens gathered Sunday night in Yonkers during a candlelight vigil to remember the 20 children and six adults killed Friday in a Newtown, Conn. elementary school.
“What has happened this past week, it rocked each and every one of us, shaking our personal beliefs and even our own faith,” Mayor Mike Spano told a small crowd gathered in the second floor of City Hall.
As candles flickered in the dimly lighted hall, neighbors, religious leaders and public school officials comforted one another and offered words of hope. The names of each victim who died in the massacre was read aloud, while a candle was lighted in their honor and placed inside a white paper bag.
As the ceremony came to an end, visitors joined hands and sang “Amazing Grace,” each offering their neighbor a hug before they walked out the doors. An emotional Bernard Pierorazio, superintendent of Yonkers Public Schools, said he was overwhelmed by the scene.
“I see our parents out there and I see our most precious commodity, our children, out there listening, waiting, wanting answers like each of us searching in our hearts and searching in our minds because we don’t have answers,” he said.
Throughout the nation, thousands have gathered to remember the victims killed in Friday’s massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School. In Westchester, similar vigils were held in Dobbs Ferry, Ossining and Rye on Sunday evening.
In Yonkers, which is less than an hour away from Newtown, many who gathered Sunday said the tragic school shooting struck a chord.
“It hits close to home for any parent,” John Carr said. “This is powerful stuff. We wanted to share our support and our condolences.”
Amid the songs and words of encouragement, elected officials on all levels of government pledged Sunday to do what they can to pass stricter gun laws in hopes of preventing anther “senseless tragedy.”
“This is something that will be a curse if we don’t do something very quickly,” said U.S. Rep. Eliot Engel (D-Bronx).
As the crowd of people began to file out of City Hall, Spano, with a lighted Christmas tree on one side and a menorah on the other, asked visitors not to forget what the holidays are all about.
“The holidays are about loving each other,” he said. “The holidays are about caring for each other. The holidays are about looking out for each other, giving a hug and saying I love you.”