Scores of Schenectady residents gathered quietly on the steps of City Hall on Sunday evening in solidarity with Newtown, Conn., families devastated by Friday’s school shooting.
They hunched against the cold, snapping off bits of brittle candle for newcomers, nodding in mute agreement over a light.
Many were young parents like Amanda Rice with whom the recent violence struck a special chord.
“I feel like I’ve been mourning,” she said. “I’m so close to this.”
She doesn’t personally know anyone from Newtown, but her daughter Kailey is 7, the same age as many of the children who lost their lives Friday.
“When you hear school shooting, you don’t think elementary school,” Rice said as Kailey jumped up and down to keep warm. “I don’t even want to send her to school tomorrow.”
As the light waned, city noteworthies delivered a few short sentences to the large crowd. Though few here personally knew any of the victims or their families, Councilwoman Marion Porterfield said the tragedy resonates in Schenectady perhaps more than other communities.
“It might be 150 miles away, but we feel a sense of community with Newtown,” she said. “We share a commonality with them because Schenectady has had its own problems.”
Hamilton Hill Neighborhood Association President Marva Isaacs, who pulled the vigil together, has personal experience with those problems. Years ago, her grandson was killed in a drive-by shooting in Schenectady.
“A car drove by and shot down four of them,” she said, explaining that when she heard about the Connecticut school shooting she realized something had to be done.
“I hope this can bring people together and change things,” she said.
Beyond the melancholy, many looked for ways to prevent such a thing happening in the schools of their own children.
“The innocence that has been taken from us is a reminder to be a better steward of our tomorrows,” said U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko, D-Amsterdam, going on to advocate for a ban on assault rifles.
A few others also mentioned gun control. Rice said there should be guards at schools.
Still others turned to God.
Local singer Antonia Brown offered a few simple lines of “Precious Lord” and area pastors prayed to bring comfort to the Newtown families.
“We need to continue to pray for the families of the victims,” Porterfield said. “It’s doing to be a long road to healing.”