Katonah resident Bea Rhodes read about a global effort to hold candlelight vigils for peace on MoveOn.org. Feeling the pain of Friday's shooting in Newtown, CT, she emailed her network of friends to see who wanted to help organize a local event.
Her friends Len Martello, Bruce Yablon and Michael Minard, among others, spread the word. The result was an informal gathering at dusk on Saturday night, with friends and neighbors embracing and coming together for comfort and companionship.
"I think people want to just be with neighbors," said Rhodes. "We feel so paralyzed and coming here felt like we were doing something."
Locals were just starting to hear the news that a Katonah native, Anne Marie Murphy, was a victim of the shooting. The 52-year-old mother of four died protecting the students she loved, Newsday reported after talking with her parents, Hugh and Alice McGowan of Katonah.
Gigi Zeller said she didn't know Murphy but felt the pain of all the victims deeply.
"We are all devastated and hurting inside," said the Mt. Kisco resident, who came to support her former Katonah neighbors. "I saw my 13-year-old granddaughter last night and I just hugged her. That community is just like this one—we all know each other."
Michael Minard lives in Katonah and teaches elementary school in Nanuet and said he helped to organize the event to honor the children, among other reasons.
"For me there is an immediacy because I am around small children every day. There’s something special about young people, an innocence—but it’s more than that, a preternatural wisdom, a connection to life. The idea that a whole class of little children is gone is beyond troubling," said Minard.
Melissa Boyer, pastor at Katonah Methodist Church, offered the group of about 40 people her thoughts and prayers.
"I am moved by the power of a community that wants to do something to fix this and to find answers," she said, "but I am suspicious of answers that come too quickly."
Boyer said the sight of so many lit candles was moving.
"The candles are a reminder of the light inside all of us, the light we carry within us. Different people will have different responses to tragedies like this."
Boyer said some would be motivated to try and change gun laws; others to push for a greater focus on mental health or address the culture of violence in our society.
"As I look out at all of you...I thank God we all have different responses that we think we can do. But there is one answer I do come to: More love. Love, love and more love."
When asked whether he thought any action would result from this tragedy, Minard said part of the problem is that the solutions to violence of this kind is so complicated.
"There are as many solutions to the problem as there are adults thinking about it," he said. "They seem to cancel each other out. Meanwhile kids are being held hostage by all of this. In a sense, we are all being held hostage."