The Washtenaw County chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America hosted an event to honor the victims of the Sandy Hook School shooting this past Thursday, Dec. 14, on the five-year anniversary of the tragedy.
The annual vigil is hel to remember the Sandy Hook victims and all victims of gun violence in our country as well as raise awareness of the growing concern. For this year’s fifth anniversary, over 200 vigils/events were held through the country.
Events Leader for the Washtenaw Chapter, Celeste Kanpurwala, describes the significance of the event, “The event was important to me because I have two little boys of my own and I am always worried about their safety. I was humbled to be in the midst of my fellow volunteer activists with Moms Demand Action without whom last night couldn’t have been possible.”
Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America was conceived by a mom, Shannon Watts, in her Indiana kitchen the day after the Sandy Hook tragedy. The organization has since grown to be the largest (under the umbrella of Everytown for Gun Safety) volunteer gun violence prevention group in the country.
Part of the evening’s event, held at Ann Arbor’s First Congregational Church, was a performance by Bach Elementary School student choir. I was a moving moment as Theresa Reid, Leader of the Washtenaw Chapter, says “Knowing that the children who died at Sandy Hook were the same age as several of the cherubs onstage was gut-wrenching.”
Speakers for the evening included State Representative Donna Lasinski who spoke of her memories when first hearing of the Sandy Hook tragedy over the radio. Rep. Lasinski also referred to the current state bills that would weaken the safety of our communities hoping it would not come to a vote. State Representative, Yousef Rabhi, was also in attendance and is collaborating with Lasinski to ensure the safety of their communities.
One of the more powerful moments of the evening was when April Ryan told her story of surviving the 1988 Hubbard School shooting in Winnetka, IL. Even now, thirty-years later it is still a raw emotional part of her life. That fear is heightened now that she has children of her own.
Ann Arbor Pediatrician Dr. Omkar Karhikeyan spoke fervently that gun violence is a public health issue, and that current congresses have not done enough to research gun violence and its impact on communities. He said that even though “It was an honor to be part of what was a very nice event. I’ve given money to the cause in the past, but it’s clear that we need to start giving our time and our voice as well.”
The evening’s vigil concluded with a reading of the names of the 20 students and 6 educators who died at Sandy Hook and a bell rang in solemn observation. Participants then marched through town holding candles and placard with each victim’s name.
Peter Bertocci, who attended the event, said “This organization has moved quickly to a national leadership role in the “gun sense” movement. Tonight’s vigil in Ann Arbor shows why; it has a good grip on the issues and good talent in promoting a moderate view on gun control.”