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New London - Residents looked on solemnly, at times wiping away tears, and parents held children in their laps as community members spoke Friday nigth at a vigil to remember those lost in the Newtown school shooting.
Miriam Taylor, a Niantic resident who works for the New London school district, mourned the loss of a friend's daughter, one of the victims of the shooting. She described the girl as a smart, happy child who loved music.
"A little girl with hopes and dreams," she said with tears in her eyes.
About 70 residents and officials, from the Board of Education to the state legislature, gathered at the Science and Technology Magnet High School to offer their condolences and speak about the preciousness of life, the senselessness of the tragedy and the need to support one another.
Mongi Dhaouadi, of the parents' community group New London Parent Advocates, organized the vigil after realizing how important it was for people to join together after the tragedy.
"It's not just me, it's not only the other parents that can't stop crying," he said at the event. "The whole community is crying."
"What happened today strikes to the heart of all of us," echoed Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio.
Those who spoke reflected on their sorrow for the children.
State Rep. Ernest Hewett, D-New London, said he watched the news on television while holding his 6-month-old grandson.
"That's when it hits home," he said.
Hewett spoke about becoming serious about the need for better gun control measures, though he said it might be unpopular to speak about the issue so soon after the tragedy.
Others emphasized the importance of talking about one's feelings and listening to children when they express what is bothering them.
"Be there for one another as much as you can," said School Resource Officer Anthony Nolan, also a city councilor.
A young boy at the vigil said he would pray for his family to stay safe. He said he felt sorry for the children who died in Newtown.
"I hope there's hope for everyone," he told the crowd.
At the end of the evening, those gathered joined hands to sing.
"I pray for you. You pray for me," they sang.
Other communities in the region also organized vigils Friday, among them the First United Methodist Church in Mystic and Connecticut College in New London.
Sophomore Marina Sachs organized the Connecticut College vigil so the community could show its support, she said. Sachs, whose mother is a grief counselor and whose father James Sachs is principal of Clark Lane Middle School in Waterford, said several students at the college were personally affected by the tragedy in Newtown.
"We just wanted to provide a safe space for people to express their condolences and whatever they're feeling about what happened in Newtown," she said.
• New London's Trinity Missionary Baptist Church, at 60 Blackhall St, will hold a prayer vigil at 8 a.m. Saturday.
• A vigil is scheduled for 6 p.m. Saturday at Plainfield Town Hall.
• The Beth Jacob Synagogue, Norwich Clergy Association and the offices of the Norwich mayor and City Council, will hold a community prayer vigil at 6:30 p.m. Saturday at the synagogue, at 400 New London Turnpike in Norwich.
• The town of Montville will hold a vigil in the Montville High School auditorium at 6:30 p.m. Sunday. Speakers will include Mayor Ronald McDaniel, schools Superintendent Pamela Aubin and others. Battery-operated candles or glow sticks are allowed, but please, no real candles.
• The town of Old Saybrook will hold a candlelight vigil from 6 to 7 p.m. Sunday on the town green. Please bring your own candles. The vigil will be followed by a community meeting for parents at 7:15 p.m. at the Old Saybrook Senior High School regarding school safety, returning to school on Monday, and suggestions on how to process this tragedy with our children.