East Lyme High School students played an instrumental role in planning Sunday's vigil for the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, both literally and figuratively.
They provided music, read out the names of the 26 victims who died at the school, and encouraged participants to make snowflakes to help turn the Newtown schools into a winter wonderland when students return in January and to make donations to the Newtown Youth and Family Services Department.
Local students Jake Kalleher, Ted Douglas, and Laura Kastner offered an introduction, along with East Lyme First Selectman Paul Formica, who gave the opening remarks.
Olivia Formica performed a moving rendition of Amazing Grace to start off, followed by Joe Lussier who performed the heart-wrenching "Halleluiah," and Kevin Miao, who sang "One Day You Will."
East Lyme Superintendent of Schools Dr. James Lombardo struggled to control his emotions as he spoke about how difficult the last week of school had been for students and teachers and how proud he was of all of them for the caring they had showed.
"As a father I was devastated by these events," Lombardo said, adding that he was heading from the vigil to pick up his daughter in Hartford. "I'm going to give her the biggest hug I ever did," he said.
America, he noted "should not be a place where we live in fear. I don't know what the answer is but we better figure it out soon."
As many speakers, including Paul Formica and State Rep. Ed Jutila noted, this tragedy could just have easily happened here.
"It could have been our children, our grandchildren," said Joyce Harris of the VFW Ladies Auxiliary. "Our thoughts and prayers go out to all the families."
The event included prayers from Pastor Jill Harvey of Niantic Baptist Church, Father Gregory Mullaney of St. Agnes Church, and Rev. John Nelson of Niantic Community Church, who offered a prayer for peace.
"Hatred cannot drive out hatred, only love can. Violence cannot drive out violence, only peace can. Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can," he said.
If there were any dry eyes, that changed when Jake Kalleher gave the final reading of the evening. It was a recitation of "The Field Trip," a poem written anonymously in remembrance of the tragedy.
The Field Trip
Please don’t cry, we’re okay.
We went on a field trip today.
A secret place where there’s fun to be had.
And the principal’s with us, so we won’t be bad.
It’s full of toys and rainbow slides.
Cotton candy and high cloud rides.
A funny zoo full of different things.
I even saw a man with wings.
We’re not alone so don’t you fear.
We’re chaperoned by Jesus here.
It’s really nice so I think I’ll stay.
And hold your spot til your field trip day.
I know Christmas is here and there’s toys to be given.
So please tell Santa that I’m here in heaven.