A small group gathered Monday night at Olivia Browning in Charlestown to light candles in memory of the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, an impromptu vigil set up by emails and texts earlier in the day.
From 8 to about 8:30 p.m., seven women from around Charlestown stood in the shop in City Square, holding white candles wrapped in green-and-white ribbons, and talked about the tragic events of Friday, Dec. 14.
For each of them, there was a desire to do something, anything. Because, as they said, Newtown, CT could have been Charlestown, MA. It could have been any town in America.
And those kids could have been their kids.
“I’m just sickened,” said Abby Gray, owner of Olivia Browning. “If I could do something that would make a difference, I’d drive down, I would do it. More than any other tragedy, I see people really coming together on this, because it’s kids and it’s a leveler. People are devastated.”
Browning offered up her shop, which closed at 7 p.m., as a place to hold the vigil, when friend Karen Fabian suggested they get together.
Fabian said her first instinct, too, was to drive to Newtown and see if she could help, but she worried she would get in the way. Instead, drawing from her experience as a yoga teacher and background in counseling, she decided to bring people together here in Charlestown.
“I wanted to do something where people might feel like they could process some of their emotions, where they could feel supported by others in their community,” Fabian said. “And I truly, truly believe that there is a power to collectively thinking similar thoughts. Whether you’re practicing yoga with a group of people, or you’re gathered at a vigil, or you’re in a church, or you’re in a temple, or you’re standing outside in a field somewhere, if you’re all kind of thinking the same thought, I believe there is a universal kind of power to that. It’s a tribute, it’s an honoring, it’s an acknowledgement to the people who were affected.”
So they gathered. And they talked, talked about how they felt as mothers, aunts, neighbors and teachers, talked about the heartbreaking reality of seeing the faces of the fallen, of knowing what they suffered and trying to understand why.
And they sang—first “Amazing Grace” and then “Silent Night,” joking in between about being mediocre singers but in the end lifting their voices anyway.
Charlestown resident MaryLee Trettenero said she had heard a friend say after the shooting that the lives of the victims’ families were essentially over, that they would never be able to move on. She disagreed.
“I think maybe something that we can all do is know that that’s not true, that you’ll never replace that child and you’ll never forget, but you’ll go on. People will go on,” she said.
Fabian said she was trying to find a silver lining in the “cloud of black” that people across the country were feeling right now.
“They gave their life so that we can maybe be better people to each other in communities all over the country,” she said of the victims. “Because that community could be any community. It could have been us. It could have been any school here.”
Residents who missed the vigil but are looking for a way to help the people of Newtown, CT are invited to bring sympathy cards, notes and letters, teddy bears, monetary donations or other items to Olivia Browning through Friday morning. Volunteers from the Boston Women’s Network will pick up the items at around 1 p.m. on Friday and deliver them to Newtown, CT over the weekend, Gray said.
In addition, several memorial funds have been set up at banks and businesses in and around Newtown. A full list is available on Newtown Patch.