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Published: Saturday, 12/15/2012

Toledo pays tribute to shooting victims

BY TANYA IRWIN
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Dozens of people lined up in a drizzling rain today in West Toledo to add their signatures to a giant condolence card that will be sent to the Connecticut town where 26 people were massacred Friday at an elementary school.

Sponsored by Toledo's Star 105.5 radio station, the event also included a white balloon release in honor of the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings. Held from 1 to 4 p.m. at the Valero Stop and Shop, 4820 Monroe St., radio personality Andrew Z in the Morning broadcast a special edition of his show.

Toledo resident Cheryl Nelson, who has been a first-grade teacher in Toledo for 31 years, said the massacre hit close to home. She said she has been numb since hearing the news of the tragedy. 

"To know that it's possible to go to work and we don't know when an individual is going to walk through the door and do something like that, it's very scary," she said.

She said she is thankful that the Toledo Public Schools' buildings, including Whittier Elementary where she teaches, have security systems that require anyone who lacks an access card to be manually buzzed in once classes have started, making access difficult for intruders.

Signing the giant yellow condolence card is a "small gesture," but Ms. Nelson was glad to be able to do it. 

"It's our educational brothers and sisters," she said. "They need to feel the support from everywhere."

Gina Turner, of Toledo, brought her two young daughters to the signing. Lyric is a third grader and Aria is a first grader, both at Whittier Elementary. Ms. Turner said she was watching the news stories about the event and Lyric joined her. 

"I had to explain to her that there are bad people in the world who do bad things, but that her teacher and principal will do everything they can to keep her safe," Ms. Turner said. 

Lyric Turner, who wrote "I'm so sorry," on the card, said it made her sad that the shooting happened just before Christmas.

"Those kids were probably really looking forward to Christmas and now they won't have a Christmas," she said. 

Area residents also can show support for the victims at a candlelight vigil at 5 p.m. today at the Toledo Children's Memorial, Eleanor Avenue and Jackman Road. Visitors are encouraged to bring flowers or teddy bears to leave at the memorial.

Contact Tanya Irwin at tirwin@theblade.com, or 419-724-6066.


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