Mary Alice Shemo of People for Positive Action speaks at a candlelight vigil she organized in Plattsburgh in response to the massacre in Connecticut.
PLATTSBURGH — Their hands shook, the light of the candles they held flickering in the night as their breath, thick and white announced itself in front of them.
But they weren’t leaving. They wanted to be there, to share, to mourn, to open their hearts in the wake of tragedy.
They had questions, as they stood in a circle in the wake of a horrific school shooting in Connecticut, but mostly, they needed to come together.
“People are feeling things and want to share,” said Mary Alice Shemo of People for Positive Action, a local group that organized a candlelight vigil in Trinity Park in Plattsburgh in response to the senseless tragedy.
Adam Lanza, 20, shot open an entrance to Newton, Connecticut’s Sandy Hook Elementary School and, once inside unloaded multiple magazines, killing six adults and 20 children from two classrooms. Lanza shot each victim multiple times and then used a handgun to kill himself.
Police recovered three weapons near his dead body, a Bushmaster AR-15 rifle and two handguns made by Glock and Sig Sauer. They also found a shotgun in his nearby car.
Before going to the school, he shot and killed his mother, Nancy, who owned the weapons, which she collected and shot at ranges.
Shemo, standing in the circle in Trinity Park holding a candle, said the tragedy caused her to think of her little brother, whose premature death “tore the family up.” She recalled her mother putting the boy’s toy in her desk, where it remained.
“Each child is so precious, and I just keep thinking of David,” Shemo said. “It just keeps happening again and again, and this time we need to deal with it.”
The massacre has brought gun violence to the forefront and fueled talks of gun control.
President Barack Obama said Americans have not done enough to keep children safe, referencing mass shootings.
He has pledged to engage law enforcement, mental health professionals, educators, parents and more in an effort to prevent future gun violence.
“We all need to have a dialogue with our children,” said Jody Lawson, who was at the candlelight vigil with her husband, Bruce.
“We are here tonight because our hearts grieve,” Bruce said. “Our hearts are broken, and we don’t understand.”
“I think we need to look within ourselves and find a peaceful place,” he said.
Shemo suggested that at times, the best answers are found in community and interaction with others.
“Keep people that work in schools in your hearts,” said Mary Lou Leavitt. “Our hearts are broken.”