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Stratford Unites for Newtown Victims

Resident Danielle Hawthorne organizes candlelight vigil on Paradise Green; roughly 200 participate to collectively grieve the nearby tragedy.

"I'd like to propose that we gather together at Paradise Green in Stratford tonight at 7PM to hold a candlelight vigil in prayer and support of all of the families affected by this morning's tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School. 

Please repost."

Danielle Hawthorne's simple Facebook message to friends virally spread across the social network, motivating roughly 200 people to gather on Paradise Green.

"I thought there had to be others feeling the same way I was," said Hawthorne of her inspiration for posting the message.

Some came with their own candles, others took from the box of LED tea lights Hawthorne quickly purchased before the gathering to ensure that everyone would be able to participate. Many residents came with their children.

Elaine Roper spent the day assuaging fears -- at her job with children at Honeyspot House and as the mother of six children, ages six through 15.

"I didn't want to scare my kids but I told them honestly. We can't live in fear," Roper said. "I thought about the last thing I had said to them in the morning too."

Jessica Rubel said she was locked down in her Bridgeport school and then learned about the tragedy when she got home.

"I felt sad and angry," Rubel said, while her mother, Shirley Gedney-Rubel, admitted that she is now concerned about school safety. 

When the candles were lit, Hawthorne said to the crowd that she is grateful for the heroism of the teachers and first responders, and wanted the tragedy to be an opportunity to look to neighbors and friends and see what we can give back.

Amidst "Amens" and applause, the group sang Amazing Grace, had a moment of silence and then placed their candles around the base of the Christmas tree on the Paradise Green gazebo. 

"I don't want hate in my heart tonight," said Stratford Town Registrar Rick Marcone. "I want to pray for families who don't have children coming home tonight."

"This is a tragedy and our hearts go out to the people in Newtown," said Chuck Lindberg, vice chairman of the Stratford Board of Education.

"I was getting information all day and I just didn't want anymore. I just wanted to hug my kids," said Lee Simon, who attended the vigil with her husband Ken and their two young sons. "I can't fathom this right now," Ken added. 

"This vigil was like a warm hug on a cold night," Maria Ferrara said as she embraced Hawthorne. 

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Shari Kendall December 15, 2012 at 04:59 AM
Great idea.. We need to ban together as one loving community.. Love and peace to all.. Thank you Robin..
alicia smith December 15, 2012 at 02:54 PM
a lot of people were also there to mourn a longtime stratford resident. great to see such love and support from the comminuty.
Stacey December 15, 2012 at 04:47 PM
A very Danielle thing to do. Bring people together. Sorry I couldn't be there. I got the post, but was working. Thank you Danielle Hawthorne.
Neil Sherman December 17, 2012 at 02:34 AM
Both Robyn and Danielle have always been souls for our Stratford -- they've now given us the opportunity to join with Newtown and be one community. Something we should as do across this nation.
Traci December 17, 2012 at 07:42 PM
It was beautiful, thank you so much to the people who organized this. It gave us a place to gather on the night where we didnt know what to do with ourselves-

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