By Nancy Guenther Chapman
NORWALK, Conn. – Somber adults wiped tears from their eyes while a toddler gurgled with joy in the back of Norwalk’s packed Concert Hall Sunday afternoon. Rabbi Ron Fish stood at the lectern and told the crowd, “As we struggle to make sense of this weekend’s madness, the one thing that comforts me is the power I have observed in each and every individual lifting up one another.”
The vigil to honor victims of Newtown’s Friday massacre attracted Norwalk’s most active community members, families and others, the attire in the room indicating the many different faiths were represented. Many people held electric candles. Some, in the back of the room, held real candles.
Adam Bovilsky led the ceremony. The director of Norwalk’s Human Relations department said he had spoken to many pastors Friday, hours after 20-year-old Adam Lanza gunned down 20 young children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School, after killing his mother at home.
“One thing that everyone agreed upon was that any church could open its doors and fill a room after such a tragic event occurs,” he said. “But Pastor Lindsay Curtis, when speaking with Mayor Moccia about this horrible event, realized that we needed something larger, something the two of them could envision that the whole community could come around and join in on.”
The service had originally been planned for the much smaller community room, but the Concert Hall’s empty seats filled as the vigil went on, people continuing to enter as speakers tried to find words to describe the indescribable.
“We may be divided by political ideologies, by our gender, even by our faiths, but the one thing all of us share is a broken heart,” Curtis said.
Imam Karrem Adeeb wondered about the evil that had visited Newtown. “I came home and started watching the TV, suddenly I know the (shooter’s) mother was killed,” he said. “More questions for me. This is an individual who started as a single cell in his mother’s womb, and grew up over nine months to be a full human being, drawing all of his nourishment from her blood, and spilling her blood that day. We say why?
“Then I remembered (the story of) Abraham. We have to right to ask, not to ask in order to doubt, but to ask to seek answers, to comprehend, to understand. We know we don’t understand. I started praying.”
State Rep. Larry Cafero also spoke of evil. “We have to get closer to God,” he said. “Evil sent in one person, in Sandy Hook. But God sends scores of people to the rescue, in the form of those incredible people, the administrators. In the form of those children who held the door open for others. In the form of those first responders. We have to get closer to God.”
Other politicians spoke of action. “We will have plenty of conversations in the weeks to come about what we can do,” said U.S. Rep. Jim Himes. “Each and every one of us can make a small step to make sure that we will never have to gather under this cloud of sadness again.”
“We have been here way too many times,” said state Sen. Bob Duff. “We have to stop meeting like this. I don’t know what the answer is. But I do know there’s not one answer; there are many answers.”
Moccia said he felt angry and helpless when he heard the news. “Their lives will never be the same,” he said of those who had lost loved ones. “They should be watching football games. They should be thinking about Hanukkah, they should be thinking about Christmas.”
He said the country has developed an insensitivity to violence, through the media and video games.
The service ended with pastors from all faiths standing in unison as the Serendipity Chorale sang “God be With You” and “We Shall Overcome.”
Many visitors stopped on their way in or out to write letters of condolences to those in Newtown.
“We are looking to the appropriate forum in Sandy Hook to send them to…likely the superintendent of schools,” Bovilsky said.
The baskets were overflowing with letters. “We have to send them back to the office as they come in,” he said. “I think we’ve probably got 100 letters or so.”