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Huntington unites for Newtown at vigil

The Rev. Nancy Arnold, minister at Unitarian Universalist

The Rev. Nancy Arnold, minister at Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Huntington, attends a candlelight vigil Thursday evening at Huntington Town Hall in memory of the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. (Dec. 27, 2012) Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

Cherie Lehmann placed her fingers firmly on the keyboard in front of her, looked to her 5-year-old daughter Katie for inspiration, and began performing a song she composed called “Angel’s Wings.”

The Gatelot Avenue Elementary School music teacher performed the song during a candlelight vigil honoring the victims of the Dec. 14 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

“The words just kind of came to me,” said Lehman, 41, of Kings Park, who performed at the vigil on Thursday at Huntington Town Hall. “I dedicated this song to those families that lost a child that day. I just hope this reaches them somehow.”

The interfaith candlelight vigil allowed nearly 40 residents and visitors to mourn for the 20 children and six adults lost at the Newtown, Conn. school and to pay their respects to the affected families.

Rev. Nancy Arnold, of Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Huntington, delivered a personal prayer along with five other clergy members and then joined dozens of others outside Town Hall lighting candles to pay tribute to the lives lost that day.

Once outside, Arnold held a lit candle firmly between her hands and looked down at the flame with saddened eyes, remembering how shocked she felt the day tragedy struck.

“When I found out, I was in complete disbelief,” said Arnold, 62, of Valley Stream. “I couldn’t hold back the tears. I think the vigil is the best we have to bring the community together to cope.”

Although two weeks have passed, Huntington Town Supervisor Frank Petrone said it was important to continue providing memorial services for the victims.

“We’re coming together as a community to join in solidarity with another community,” Petrone said. “We’re absorbing their grief and trying to lift them up.”

It was Michael Raspantini’s idea to organize a vigil after he reported on the Sandy Hook tragedy on his website,

“People are looking for healing after something like this,” said Michael Raspantini, 31, of Huntington. “The vigil gives them the opportunity to get some sort of resolve and cope with their community. When I was there at Sandy Hook Elementary I found a grief that I can only remember during 9/11, a grief that really affects everyone.”

Arnold said she believes it’s important for residents to come together to heal.

“Children have a unifying force and that’s why it has affected us all so deeply, especially at this time of year,” she said. “The meaning of being here together is to remind each other that we’re not alone and hopefully remind the people in Newtown that they are not alone.”

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