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Published: Sunday, 12/16/2012 - Updated: 2 years ago

Local vigils mourn Connecticut rampage

BY TANYA IRWIN AND MARK ZABORNEY
BLADE STAFF WRITERS
Shannon Falk of Springfield Township signs a card during a memorial event in West Toledo. Shannon Falk of Springfield Township signs a card during a memorial event in West Toledo.
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At twilight Saturday, more than 30 people stopped by the Toledo Children’s Memorial and in the damp chill remembered those killed in the Newtown, Conn., school shooting.

The song “Precious Child” floated up from a boombox placed among the stuffed animals and flowers at the memorial as those who gathered — mothers and fathers, sons and daughters — lit candles, one from another.

“In my dreams, you are alive and well, precious child, precious child,” the recorded voice of Karen Taylor-Good sang.

“In my heart you live on, always there, never gone.”

Traffic passing on Jackman Road kept an irregular beat.

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One large brown teddy bear wore a sign, the printed letters rain-streaked: “Praying for the children in Connecticut. God bless.”

Princess Blackman, 6, clutches a candle as she attends the vigil at the Toledo Children's Memorial. Princess Blackman, 6, clutches a candle as she attends the vigil at the Toledo Children's Memorial.
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The group stood in silence, flickering candles in hand, and Maryellen Schmidt, chapter leader of Compassionate Friends of Northwest Ohio, invited others to share their thoughts.

“My heart just bleeds for all the people in Connecticut,” Ms. Schmidt said. “And for anyone else who has lost a child.”

Ms. Schmidt's son Rodney Echelbarger, his girlfriend, Lauren Diefenthaler, and two others in their vehicle, Kyle Sporleder and Aaron Esposito, died Dec. 21, 2008, in a crash on the Indiana Toll Road.

One man said, “I’m glad everyone is here to show their support.”

Holly Burgete offered the help, for those who need it, of the local Parents of Murdered Children chapter.

Another woman said: “This was so unnecessary.” Ms. Schmidt said that while each person’s pain is different, “when there is a mass murder, it’s devastating for everyone.”

Afterward, participants wrote words of comfort on a poster that is to be sent to the children and staff at the Newtown school, said Daniel Cole, founder of the children’s memorial. He spread word of the candlelight vigil through social media and other outlets.

“I needed to do this,” said Mr. Cole, who was spurred to organize the memorial at Eleanor Avenue and Jackman by the deaths in 1999 of two Start High School seniors killed in a crash there — and whose son Matthew, 27, died four years ago.

“I cannot fathom what that community is going through,” he said. “If no one is diminished by this, there’s something wrong with them. This is a loss to the community — their community; our community. It sets you back on your heels.”

Kisha Slater’s son Christopher, 11, died in a 2003 car crash, and she was joined at the vigil by her daughter, Victoria Woods, 19; grandson Travion Woods, 1, and nieces Precious Slater, 19. Savonna Thompson, 8, and Princess Blackman, 4.

“I came out to show my support and remember those who were lost to family members,” she said.

“Pain is everywhere. It’s not just in one location. It could happen in our city. I know what the parents are feeling.”

Savonna Thompson, 8, writes a message to the victims during the vigil at the Toledo Children's Memorial. Savonna Thompson, 8, writes a message to the victims during the vigil at the Toledo Children's Memorial.
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Nancy Snyder's son Jeff Poindexter, 26, was shot and killed on her front porch in August, 2011.

“This is hard, but I had to be here. I had to,” she said. “To know somebody you don’t even know cares, it helps. That’s what I'm doing here — hoping it sends comfort and support.”

Earlier in the afternoon, dozens of people lined up in a drizzle in West Toledo to add their signatures to a giant condolence card that will be sent to Connecticut.

Sponsored by Toledo’s Star 105.5 radio station, the event also included a white balloon release in honor of shooting victims, while radio personality Andrew Z in the Morning broadcast a special edition of his show from the Valero Stop and Shop, 4820 Monroe St.

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.

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

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 wrote “I'm so sorry” on the card.

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

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

 



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