Remembering Newtown


It was one year ago, on Dec. 14, 2012, just after 9:30 a.m., when a gunman began killing children and staff at the school.

In the end, 26 people at the school were killed, including 20 students.

In the months following the massacre Ann Braden of Brattleboro founded Gun Sense Vermont, an advocacy group that is working to pass stricter gun laws in Vermont and better communication between state agencies and the background check system.

Braden spoke to the group at Pliny Park Saturday morning saying the tragedy affected other people across the country who have also been working to stop gun violence since the event at Sandy Hook.

"There's been 365 days and there's still so much raw emotion," she said. "As the reports were coming in all of us were going through disbelief and anger and deep, deep sadness. And it's still there. It felt like it was happening to our own family. We should feel it in our hearts the way the parents of the children, and the families of those children feel it in their hearts because we are all human beings."

Across Vermont 25 other vigils were planned for Saturday.

At the vigil in Brattleboro supporters read The Sandy Hook Promise, a statement written by community members in Connecticut that says, among other things, that the event should be used to bring all sides together to agree on those issues on which common ground can be found and to work from there toward reducing gun violence

"What is amazing though is that out of that horrible tragedy real leadership came and miraculously it came from the people who were hurting the most; the sandy hook families," Braden said. "They stood up and as much as they were grieving they said we can all come together and find a way to reduce gun violence."

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Braden also read the names of everyone from the school who died that day.

The bell at Centre Congregational Church across the street rang as supporters hung white paper cranes on the Christmas tree at the corner of Main and High streets.

[READ ALSO: Bells toll 26 times in Newtown for shooting victims]

After the vigil Braden said about 2,000 people have joined Gun Sense Vermont from 160 different towns in Vermont.

"It's been really inspiring to have so many people join," she said. "Newtown really was a turning point. It opened our eyes to how out of balance our society is and we can't close them again."

She said that while the group will not be pushing for new legislation during the 2014 Legislative session, Gun Sense Vermont was going to continue to encourage legislators, and Vermonters, to talk about ways to help cut down on gun violence in the state and across the country.

"There needs to be conversations and education. People need to get on the same page about what problems does Vermont have specifically and what are the best ways to address that. I think there is a lot of work that has to be done before we're ready to say, 'This is exactly what we're trying to do,'"Braden said. "We need to look at the big picture and take into account all perspectives so that everyone is moving forward together."

Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached ta or 802-254-2311 ext. 279. Follow Howard on Twitter @HowardReformer.


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