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As the crowd huddled with their candles in the cold twilight at Ashley Pond Friday evening, Soumyo Lahiri-Gupta, president of the Los Alamos High Student Council, started reading the names many of the attendees were already too familiar with, even though Newtown, Conn. is 2,000 miles away.
As he made his way down the list of names and ages of victims in the horrific tragedy from just one week ago, some looked straight ahead and some bowed their heads in silent prayer. Many also wept.
Gupta organized the candlelight vigil, saying it was something he had to do.
“It reminded me of Columbine,” he said. “People needed to think about this, they needed to let their sadness out, because no matter who you are, this affects everyone.”
Featured speakers at the event included county council Chair Sharon Stover and Superintendent of Schools Gene Schmidt.
“Tonight, we’re here because we care about others,” Schmidt said to the crowd. “It is my belief that love is stronger than hate,” Schmidt told the crowd. “It is my belief that light is stronger than darkness. That’s why we’re here today with our candles. …My guess is that there are many candles burning tonight for the children of Newtown, Connecticut.”
Schmidt also asked the crowd that they do “26 acts of kindness” in the next month in honor of the 26 victims.
“It’s overwhelming and heartbreaking to think what happened in Newtown could happen here. It could happen anywhere,” Stover said in her remarks. “We must be vigilant and proactive when it comes to protecting our children.”
Stover also took time address what many people felt, but couldn’t quite express about the tragedy in Newtown.
“Many of you have asked, ‘why did this happen, and what can we do to keep it from happening again?’ We may not have the answers to those questions, but by being here this evening I know you deeply care about the families who lost their loved ones.”
Gupta was the last speaker.
“This shooting is and always will be a horrible tragedy,” he said. “It has opened everyone’s eyes and has changed what we think about our children’s safety at school.”
After he was done speaking, he asked the crowd to put their candles near the pictures of the children who died that had set up at the podium.