NEWTOWN — Families extolled hope in prayers and hymns as the antidote to pain and dismay on the seventh anniversary of the Sandy Hook massacre.
“On this day seven years ago, we all thought the world was going to change, but it seems we were deluded, because the situation has gotten even worse with the violence of guns,” said Monsignor Robert Weiss, the pastor of St. Rose of Lima Church, during a packed memorial Mass on Saturday. “We live in fear, we live in anxiety, and yet we live in hope because we know God walks with us.”
The seventh anniversary of the day 20 first-graders and six educators were slain at Sandy Hook School found families at two morning services hugging in the pews and wiping away tears during stirring words from religious leaders about holding hope close.
“Just when I thought I was moving past the difficult part of this experience, it comes back, and I know it is like that for a lot of us in Newtown,” said Rabbi Shaul Praver during an interfaith service at Newtown Congregational Church.
“We don’t want to be remembered as a town of tragedy — we want to be remembered as a town that gave birth to peace, kindness and love,” Praver said. “And we are feeling the burden of that birth today.”
The annual memorial Mass at St. Rose began with a traditional reading of the names of the children and educators who died. The solemnity of the ceremony — punctuated by a bell rung after each name and animated by young adults who placed victims’ names on a lighted tree — closed the distance to 2012 and brought memories mournfully close.
“I remember standing here with you seven years ago amid the shock and the horror and the pain and the grief, and telling you the world is watching,” said U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal after the Mass. “The decency and the dignity that you showed that day has inspired the world.”
U.S. Rep. Jahana Hayes said her hope for Newtown was in its solidarity.
“I mourn with you today,” Hayes said after the Mass. “We are all at different stages in our mourning, so my wish today is that we all heal together.”
Weiss, who was broken up with emotion at the end of his homily, said he has no answer about the route Newtown’s grief will take, except that Newtown has reason to hope.
“I am asked all the time how we are doing – how our families are doing – and my answer is, ‘I don’t know,’ because every day brings something new,” Weiss said. “All we are given is what we have here this morning.”
Weiss stood wordless for a moment, overcome with tears.
“Together, we will see our way through it.”
by Rob Ryser | CTPost.com
Photo: H. John Voorhees III