Local News

Monday, Dec 17 2012 08:46 PM

Vigil offers prayers, love for victims of Sandy Hook shootings

  1. 1 of 5

    By Michael Fagans / The Californian

    Lorraine and Gizmo Ceballos, center, and their children Kylie, 3, and David 7, stand next to Merlese Barriga at the candlelight vigil held to remember the victims of the shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary outside the Bakersfield City School District building on Monday night. The event was sponsored by the Childen First Campaign and leaders from several different faith traditions participated at the event.

    click to expand click to collapse
  2. 2 of 5

    By Michael Fagans / The Californian

    Many of those in attendance at the at the candlelight vigil held to remember the victims of the shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary held on to loved ones outside the Bakersfield City School District building on Monday night.

    click to expand click to collapse
  3. 3 of 5

    By Michael Fagans / The Californian

    Sandra Ferrell looks at her granddaughter Ramona Castro, 6, in her arms as they listen to a speaker at the candlelight vigil held Monday night.

    click to expand click to collapse
  4. 4 of 5

    By Michael Fagans / The Californian

    Rabbi Cheryl Rosenstein from Temple Beth El addresses the attendees of the candlelight vigil held for the victims of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

    click to expand click to collapse
  5. 5 of 5

    By Michael Fagans / The Californian

    Belinda Elliott and her sons Keegan, 3, and Aidan, 11, get some help lighting their candles before the start of the vigil Monday night.

    click to expand click to collapse
BY REBECCA KHEEL Californian staff writer rkheel@bakersfield.com

Candles illuminated a sea of people as prayers were recited and songs were sung to pay tribute to the 20 children and six adults killed in Friday's massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn.

The nonprofit organization Children First Campaign held a candlelight vigil Monday on the steps of the Bakersfield City School District headquarters. Hundreds of people attended to honor and mourn the victims of the second-deadliest school shooting in U.S. history.

"Father, we thank you for the opportunity to show love for those who were hurt and broken because of this senseless tragedy," Pastor Chris Ferguson said during the first prayer of the night.

Children, some of whom looked to be the age of the 6- and 7-year-old victims, stood on the steps of the building holding up hand-drawn posters of each child killed Friday. Other children displayed signs with messages of peace, such as, "Cultivate peace and harmony in the United States." And a few more sat on the steps with white, illuminated bags.

Behind them were adults, holding posters with photos of the teachers, administrators and staff who died protecting the schoolchildren. On one ledge by the stairs, stacks of books topped with apples also honored the teachers.

As representatives from Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism and Sikhism stepped up to offer prayers, several members of the crowd sniffled and wiped away tears. Toddlers who were too young to know why they were there fidgeted and whined as their parents hugged them tightly.

Bakersfield City School District Superintendent Rob Arias spoke about how his district has been discussing ensuring its kids are safe. Sandy Hook did everything right, he said, heightening the tragedy. What can make the difference, he said, is instilling the value of caring in all children.

"Let us embrace one another with empathy and care," he said.

In the middle of the ceremony, the names and ages of the victims were recited. That's the part that made Shawni Edwards, who was in the crowd with her 10-year-old daughter, Jordyne Finister, start tearing up. Even after the ceremony was over, she struggled to keep her composure, she said.

"It's still right here," Edwards said, pointing at her heart.

Edwards and Jordyne decided to attend to show support for the people of Newtown. Edwards also said she wanted Jordyne to see how people can love each other in times of tragedy.

"I want her to understand it's not just about Christmas gifts. It's about the gift that God gave us, and to take away the gift of a child is terrible," Edwards said as she and Jordyne stood in line to sign an oversized card that will be sent to Newtown in the next few days.

Belinda Elliott, who has four children, joined with her family to support Newtown and help her children understand the tragedy, she said.

One of her children is 6 years old, the same age as many of the victims. Hearing the news of the shooting made her sick, she said. She lay in bed with 6-year-old for a while when she put him down for a nap Monday, even though he didn't understand why.

"Why do we have to hold this stupid candle?" Elliott said her kids asked her at the vigil.

"Because there are 20 mommies and daddies who don't have their little ones tonight," she explained.

Leonard and Bebe Hernandez attended the vigil with their 8-year-old daughter, Malaena, to give thanks that they still have their child and to teach Malaena compassion.

Malaena was nervous about going back to school Monday, Bebe Hernandez said. But her parents reassured her she was safe.

"Always have faith and always have trust in your parents and teachers and administrators," Leonard Hernandez told her. "And you got an angel watching over you to protect you and keep you safe."

Have something to share? Comment on this story
Today's Daily Deal
from
Bakersfield.com
$12.50
Daily Deal Image
The Bakersfield Californian
50% off Tickets to Taste of Home
  • Value
    $25
  • Savings
    $12.50
  • Bought
    38
Buy Now