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New Jersey Residents For Action Against Gun Violence and Summit Interfaith Council to Host Vigil for Sandy Hook Elementary

Wednesday, December 11, 2013 • 8:25pm

 To honor the children and teachers of Sandy Hook Elementary School and all others lost to gun violence, an interfaith candlelight vigil organized by Westfield grassroots group “ New Jersey Residents For Action Against Gun Violence” in conjunction with the Summit  Interfaith Council  will be held on Summit’s Village Green December 14, from 4 - 5 p.m., the first anniversary of the mass murder in Newtown, CT.  Residents from all nearby towns are invited to participate. 

Reverend Vanessa Southern, senior minister of The Unitarian Church in Summit, will be the host and main speaker.  The program will include remarks by Sheriff Ralph Froehlich of Union County; William Edwards, a Vietnam veteran who was a Captain in the U.S. Air Force; Samuel Arnold, President of the Garden State Funeral Directors Association, and the mother of a child slain on a local playground.

The vigil remembers the 20 first-graders and six teachers shot to death on December 14, 2012, at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown.  The shooter also killed his mother and himself.  The program will open with a local youth choir.  After the speeches, all participants will light candles while professional singer Karen Egert,  founder  of New Jersey Residents for Action Against Gun Violence, performs “Sweet Angel ,” which she wrote after the Newtown shooting.  Her song will be followed by a recording of Newtown’s Youth Choir singing “My Beautiful Town.”  Participants will be invited to join in the last verse.

The Vigil is sponsored by the Summit Interfaith Council, which represents most of Summit’s houses of worship; the New Jersey Million Mom March Chapters of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence; New Jersey Residents for Action Against Gun Violence; Friends Against Violence Everywhere (FAVE); and the national non-partisan group Organizing for Action (OFA).

 “I am a mom, and I was shattered on December 14, 2012,” said Kathy Allen-Roth, a co-organizer and a member of The Unitarian Church in Summit.  “Almost a year later, I sometimes wonder if I’ll see my son again at the end of the school day. Our vigil is for the Newtown victims, but it is also for the thousands of other children and adults who have died from gun violence.”

Carole Stiller, President of the NJ Million Mom March Chapters of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, agrees.  "Certainly our focus today is on the victims at Sandy Hook Elementary School and over 30,000 across the country who have been killed by guns since that tragedy, including almost 300 right here in New Jersey.  We must also take this opportunity to inform the public of ways they can help prevent more gun deaths from occurring.  And one of those ways is to urge their Congressman to finish the job that the Brady Bill began 20 years ago by passing H.R. 1565, providing for universal background checks."

 "As an educator, who taught first and second grade children, my heart aches when I think of those 20 first grade students who lost their lives due to gun violence," said Bonita Stevens, the third co-organizer and Union County Chapter Leader of the national non-partisan Organizing for Action group.  "We teachers were trained to protect our students by our school district having monthly drills.  And that’s what those teachers were doing, protecting their students."

Free parking for the Summit Vigil is available at the parking deck on the corner of Broad Street and Summit Avenue.  In the event of inclement weather, the vigil will be held at Central Presbyterian Church.  The vigil is one of four being held in New Jersey on December 14, with similar observances scheduled for Princeton, Newark, Teaneck and Ridgewood.  In Clifton, the vigil will take place on the evening of December 13.

Throughout the country, other vigils will be held in the evening. Many churches will ring their bells 26 times starting at 9:35 AM, the time of the first 911 phone call from the school in Sandy Hook.  For further information, write preventgunviolence2013@gmail.com.

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