The Rev. Henry Brown summed up the sentiments of a crowd gathered on the front steps of Hartford City Hall Wednesday: “It doesn’t matter if you live in Hartford, Newtown or Bridgeport — we are all affected by gun violence.”
Attendees at a “compassion vigil” held at city hall for the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting said they were as deeply moved by the gun violence in Newtown as they have been by shootings in the capital city.
“They are all our children, regardless of race or creed,” said Muriel Holmes, a crossing guard at West Middle School on Asylum Avenue, who sported a patch on her jacket reading “school guard.”
Holmes said she’s seen an increased police presence around Hartford schools since the shooting Friday.
Brown, who noted that he’s held countless vigils for shooting victims, said the tragedy in Newtown hit Hartford as hard as many city shootings have.
“They were just babies,” he said.
Shouting into a microphone during the vigil Wednesday, he told a small crowd gathered there that they didn’t have to worry about the 20 children killed “because they are surely with God.”
He also acknowledged the teachers, principal and school staff members who gave their lives protecting the children. “These brave women laid their lives down. Would we do the same?” he said. “It took a lot of courage and God is blessing them, too.”
He read the names of all 28 deceased aloud — including gunman Adam Lanza and his mother, Nancy Lanza — pausing between each name to ring a bell.
Several city employees came outside to watch. Olga Vazquez, the city’s Democratic registrar of voters, made pins of green and white ribbon to hand out to her staff Wednesday. Some of the staff members sported the pins at the vigil.
“I just thought of it as a symbolic gesture,” Vazquez said. “It doesn’t matter where you live, it touches all of us. It’s going to be with us for a while. It’s not something that’s going to be forgotten overnight.”
The mood at city hall has been somber, she said, as many employees were stunned by the violence.