Dozens of Stoneham area residents attended a solemn Christmas Eve vigil to honor the at the Stoneham Town Common.
The vigil was organized by concerned Stoneham mom Erin Sinclair who put it together through a Facebook page, an email blast campaign and word of mouth.
“Grace Mcdonald, age seven. Emily Parker, age six. Jack Pinto, age six...,” said Jim Devlin, veteran's service officer for Stoneham, from a small podium at the gazebo on the Common. While reading the names of the 26 victims, Devlin fought to hold back tears as others wept openly.
“My heart just goes out to the families, I'm constantly thinking about them,” explained Stoneham mother, Erin Riddell, summing up much of the sympathies of those in attendance.
Between inspirational music, attendees signed up with Sinclair to read heartfelt poems and other words of reflection while a group of Stoneham Middle School students offered remembrance pins and were taking donations to support the victims' families.
Mourners were offered a simple, yet profound arrangement to reflect on: a single row of paper angels on sticks, each tagged with the names and ages of the dead which were held in place by luminary bags glowing dimly in the evening sky. Two collages were also presented: one with the names of the victims and another with their pictures.
The event was MC'd by Stoneham Board of Selectman Bob Sweeney who stood by Newtown resident Dara McKenzie (in Stoneham to celebrate the holiday with her in-laws) who wrapped up the speeches with a piece she wrote about the horrific events of Dec. 14 and the aftermath.
"When asked where I live for the past three years, I always had to tell people that I live in Newtown, about 15 minutes east of Danbury off (Route) 84. Now, I do not have to explain. Our little 'off the grid town' has now been named the 'saddest place on Earth,'" McKenzie said. "Yes, we are sad. We are devastated. But, we are also so much more than that. We were always a close knit community, we waved to each other when we passed them in a grocery store, we said 'hi' when we drove by them waiting with their kids at the bus stop. Now, we no longer wave, we no longer say 'hi.' We hug when we see our neighbors, we blow kisses when we pass them in our car, and we cry when we look into each other's eyes. We are now all family. A week before the dreaded day, I wrote an email to an old friend filling her in on my life. I said how much I love living in this town. I feel that now more than ever and feel proud and lucky to be part of such a loving community."
With candles in hand, mourners stood behind the row of luminary grave stones and watched as a procession carrying balloons entered from the Town Hall parking lot and lined up in front of them. The balloons were released by the school children holding them and floated off into the night sky, a symbolic farewell to those lost.