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Words sharing comfort, encouragement, and demands for change will be sent from Newtown thanks to a roomful of letter writers who joined together February 19 at Newtown United Methodist Church under the direction of Moms Demand Action For Gun Sense in America.
The event was put together in the wake of the February 14 school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. Seventeen people were killed in that incident.
For some at the letter writing event, it was a stark reminder of that dark day five years and two months earlier in Newtown when a similar event took the lives of 20 children and six women inside a school buildling less than a mile away from where the Moms Demand Action group worked Monday afternoon.
Stacks of letters began forming shortly after the start of event. Women sat at a tables situated in the center of the church’s Rauner Hall as Brendan Fox of Bethel, a former youth leader for the Sandy Hook church, sang songs while playing a guitar.
Another table was set up in a corner for children to color images. One girl filled in an outlined peace sign with bright red, pink, blue, green, and yellow.
According to the Moms Demand Action website (momsdemandaction.org), the organization was created to “demand action from legislators, state and federal; companies; and educational institutions to establish common-sense gun reforms.” According to the group, it supports the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution, and it believes “common-sense solutions can help decrease the escalating epidemic of gun violence that kills too many of our children and loved ones every day.”
Resident and Moms Demand Action Faith Outreach Lead For Connecticut Barb Sibley organized the February 19 event.
Ms Sibley explained the volunteers were working to write letters of support for the community of Parkland, as “one impacted community to another” to offer condolences and shared heartbreak.
They were also writing letters of support for Connecticut’s lawmakers who have been “gun sense champions,” Ms Sibley said. The group was also focusing on writing letters to speak out against things like the federal Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act, bump stock gun attachments, the need to fix the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), and “we need federal background checks.”
Between writing her letters, Sandy Hook resident Judy Hammel said she learned about the event while looking for a way to get involved.
“I thought it would stop with us, and it hasn’t,” Ms Hammel said, referring to 12/14.
Ms Hammel said stories she hears from educators about students asking questions about their safety break her heart.
All of Ms Hammel’s letters, she said, were being written to “A friend in Parkland.” She said she was trying to remember what gave Newtown comfort following the tragedy to share that same thing with Parkland through her letters.
“If I could take their pain away and bare it myself, I would,” said Ms Hammel.
Bristol resident Stacy Williamson was also writing letters on Monday. She had attended her first Moms Demand Action meeting a day earlier, and learned about the letter writing event then. She is hoping to get a local group started in the Hartford area.
Ms Williamson said along with writing to residents of Parkland, she was also writing letters to Connecticut’s senators “thanking them for their views and standing up for sensible gun laws.”
Trumbull residents Allan and Debbie Shindell and their daughter Laura Shindell sat at another table. Debbie Shindell said she is a retired educator. The family recently returned from attending a wedding in Coral Springs, Fla, a neighboring town of Parkland.
“Something’s gotta stop,” she said.
Laura Shindell reflected that an entire generation of students is growing up either as school shooting survivors or with the knowledge of rehearsing for drills, which she said can also be traumatizing.
“It is way too easy to get a gun in America,” said Ms Shindell, who lives in New York.