Newtown massacre: Hudson Valley vigils bring solidarity, tears

From left, Isabella Ruiz, 8, of Sleepy Hollow, From left, Isabella Ruiz, 8, of Sleepy Hollow, Madison Navin, 9, of Tarrytown, Joseph DiPalma and Eric Ruiz, both of Sleepy Hollow, gather outside Village Hall for a vigil for the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Connecticut. "This is the most I feel I can do. This is a horrible thing. It's everywhere. Every time you turn the TV on or go on the internet; it's everywhere. It just affects you. Having a child almost that age kills you, just to know what those parents are going through and especially it being the holiday season. It's heartbreaking. The most I can do is come over here and say a prayer. I'm here. I'm happy. I'm with my daughter and her friend. it's a beautiful thing. You don't know who's a nut out there. It's sad." (Dec. 21, 2012) (Dec. 21, 2012) Photo Credit: Angela Gaul

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The Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre was marked by more vigils and ceremonies as Hudson Valley communities join a grieving nation in remembering the 20 children and six adults gunned down on Dec. 14.

More than two dozen Mount Vernon city employees took a break from their morning routines for a group moment of silence during a brief ceremony in City Council chambers. During a fleeting half-hour of prayer, song, poetry reading, a bell was run 26 times. City Council President Roberta Apuzzo said the gathering finally gave her a chance to break down and cry.

"You think you're an elected official and you're supposed to be strong and say the words to comfort people ... it wasn't planned for me to lose control the way I did," she said.

Mayor Ernie Davis said the incident, which took the lives of 6- and 7-year-old first-graders, was a call for the nation to change.

"We have been programmed to hate each other. It's not just about these children," he said. "It's also about what the adults have done."

In Sleepy Hollow, 8-year-old Isabella Ruiz and her friend, 9-year-old Madison Navin of Tarrytown, held candles in dixie cups to catch the melting wax as they listened to the Rev. Mark Santiago from Rock of Salvation Church quote a Bible verse. The verse, from First Corinthians 13:4, is about love.

"I feel lucky that I have the life I have, that some maniac didn't come into my school and kill all my friends and me," Ruiz said.

Her father, Eric Ruiz, said he was shaken by the stories and images coming out of Newtown.

"Having a child almost that age kills you, just to know what those parents are going through and especially it being the holiday season," he said. "It's heartbreaking."

In Yonkers, Mayor Mike Spano asked residents to join in a moment of silence at 9:30 a.m., in a coordinated national effort at schools throughout the country.

The vigils are scheduled to continue through the evening.

Sleepy Hollow residents have an interfaith vigil planned for 5:30 p.m. Friday. The village also will collect gifts and letters for the young survivors of the shooting.

And at 7 p.m. in Yorktown, neighbors will gather by candlelight at the Jack DeVito Memorial Field on Veterans Road. Like their counterparts in Sleepy Hollow and other towns, organizers will collect letters of support for the surviving Newtown victims.

Friday's national moment of silence was organized by Connecticut Gov. Daniel Malloy who invited school principals and teachers to lead their students in a quiet remembrance of the dead.

As the vigils expand, one group is going virtual. The Dutchess County Regional Chamber of Commerce has created a page on its website at dutchesscountyregionalchamber.org that lists a Newtown mailing address for sending condolence letters to the community, an online petition drive urging elected officials to take action and a link to the Sandy Hook School Support Fund run by the United Way of Western Connecticut in partnership with Newtown Savings Bank.

The various activities were announced Thursday as mourners in Katonah buried victim Anne Marie Murphy. The 52-year-old teacher grew up in the Westchester village and lived with her husband and four children in Sandy Hook, a community within Newtown, for the past 14 years, working as a special-education aide at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Catholic archbishop of the Diocese of New York, was the celebrant at the funeral Mass and praised Murphy for her selflessness as gunman Adam Lanza rampaged through the school. Murphy died while shielding 6-year-old Dylan Hockley and other children from Lanza's bullets. The gunman, who also killed his mother, later shot himself in the head.

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