Parsippany Gathers as 'People of Light' for Newtown
Candlelight vigil held Tuesday night at Veterans Park elicits tears, tributes and a call for an end to the violence.
More than 100 residents gathered at Veterans Park Tuesday night to offer respects to the 20 children and six adults gunned down Friday at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
Parsippany's Par-Troy Council of Parent-Teacher Associations candlelight vigil was the brainchild of Parsippany Hills High School PTSA President Sandy Nussbaum Giercyk.
"I had to do something," she said, when asked why she suggested putting on an outdoor event to allow Parsippany residents to stand in solidarity with the Newtown fallen.
"My emotions have run the gamut, from love to hate to guilt," Giercyk said, addressing the crowd at the park's bandshell. "This tragedy leaves us with a reminder that life is very fragile."
Elizabeth Kadian, also of the Par-Troy PTA Council, followed by reading the names of all of the 26 killed during the Connecticut tragedy.
A host of town dignitaries were on hand, including Mayor James Barberio, Superintendent of Schools LeRoy Seitz, Business Administrator Jasmine Lim, the entire Township Council and numerous members of the Parsippany Board of Education.
Townspeople stood, many weeping or holding friends or family members tight in the cold, damp night air, holding electric candles or flashlights. In the center of the residents stood 26 empty chairs—20 child-sized school chairs and six adult-sized chairs placed in the shape of a heart—to represent the women and children who died in Friday's shooting spree.
Representatives of the Par Hills and Central Middle Schoolchoirs performed a solemn song in their honor.
"I stand here before you with a heavy heart in sorrow, in mourning and indignation, struggling with the entire nation to make sense of this tragedy," said Mayor James Barberio from the podium. "No one knows what triggered the attack on Sandy Hook School that took the lives of 20 innocent and beautiful children and six adults. There is nothing we can say that could fill the holes in the hearts of those parents whose children were lost."
Board of Education President Frank Calabria paid tribute to the Newtown teachers and school officials who died in the massacre.
"The bravery of those who gave their lives to protect their children is inspiring," Calabria said. "We as a community in Parsippany and a a country have come to realize that the teachers of Newtown showed a love of their students and made a difference. Those students were their children. Love and protection seemed to have been ingrained in each teacher. To them, teaching was more than a job, it was a calling."
The Rev. Herbert Tillyer of St. Peter the Apostle Roman Catholic Church offered a prayer and made a call for the public finally to get serious about gun control.
"If you think about it, we should not be here now," the priest said. "But we are here now because we must be here now. We must be together as people of light now, overcoming the darkness of evil now.
"As a country, since Columbine, we have been saying, as a people, not now. Now is not the time to really do something about the killing. Now is not the time to address the slaughter of the innocent—men, women and young people. But now, even our babies? Being massacred? Is it still 'Now is not the time?'
"No. I beg God. Now is the time."
Rabbi Ronald Kaplan of Temple Beth Am offered his own prayer calling for peace. Then, as he does each year at the township's Setempber 11 remembrances, Kaplan pulled out the shofar, a Jewish ram's horn traditionally blown during the season of Passover. Then he sounded the horn, for peace, 'shalom,' he said, and to honor Newtown's fallen.