Several hundred people stood shoulder-to-shoulder, trying to keep candles lit in the rain, Tuesday night on the Naugatuck Town Green to honor the victims of Friday's mass shooting at a Newtown elementary school.
Six large candles and 20 small ones sat on a table in front of a podium inside a gazeb to honor the 20 children and six adults who died. Speakers took to that podium to describe the heroic actions of Naugatuck native Dawn (Lafferty) Hochpsrung, principal at Sandy Hook Elementary School. She reportedly lost her life while lunging at the gunman in an attempt to stop him after telling other staff members to hide in her office.
Hochprung, 47, a 1983 graduate of Naugatuck High School, was recalled fondly by her former track coach Ron Aliceini. She was thanked for her bravery and loving nature by her longtime friend, Kevin DelGobbo. She was honored for her bravery by Mayor Bob Mezzo (Read his remarks attached to this article as a PDF). And she was memorialized by this reporter, her friend, Paul Singley. I thanked her for setting me up with my wife, her former co-worker, Kathleen (Kuhla) Singley and shared fond memories and stories about Hochsprung.
The service was led by the Rev. Gordon Rankin, senior pastor at the Congregational Church of Naugatuck, who also summarized Hochsprung's bravery in the face of unspeakable horror and prayed for all of the victims. Following the speeches, Grace Jimenez sang beautifully for the crowd.
After the ceremony, several Naugatuck residents took to social media to describe the evening. Some of them include, from Facebook posts:
From State Rep. Rosa Rebimbas:
"We remember heroically the adults who protected their students at the sacrifice of their own lives. The little children who were so big in the ways that they have touched us, and inspired us, with their hopes and dreams for the future.
"In this difficult time, we must now support and give strength to their family members, all of the teachers, school administrators, and first responders.
"In their honor, we must continue to live and never forget what happened, but always remember to love one another and help one another each and every day."
From Ed Carter, Aide to Mayor Bob Mezzo:
"I would like to thank everyone who turned out this evening for our vigil. The Congregational Church handed out over 600 candles, many left stuffed animals and the Naugatuck High Art Department put together a beautiful Angel full of messages from our students to those in Newtown. I would like to say thank you to the media who respected our boundries. I understand they have a job to do and were veryfair to work with. To Dawn's family I hope we were able to provide you with some comfort. I know speaking with you over the past several days it has been difficult to get through each day. I am glad you wanted to be a part of our vigil and I am so glad you welcomed me into your lives. Rev. Rankin once again thank you and your volunteers for being there for our community. Lastly Jason Robert Brown composed a song called "Twenty Six Names" when I contacted him to ask if he could provide the song to us to use when lighting the candles he quickly responded and sent us the song.
"We will heal and we will remember the children and the educators. Heaven was with us tonight and we were with them."
From Tamath K. Rossi, Naugatuck's Deputy Mayor
"A remembrance tonight beyond descriptive words. There was comfort in the light rainy dark lit with more candles than one could count. While the air was heavy with sadness, Naugatuck came together as only this community can. Beautiful words were said, memories shared and sentiments expressed. The most profound moment was definitely when that incredible voice sang Amazing Grace and one by one everyone joined and followed it up with Silent Night. Incredible and beyond description. An evening and tribute I will never forget and hope that my beloved community will never have to endure again. May God Bless Dawn and all of the Sandy Hook victims and their families."
Editor's Note: Feel free to share your thoughts about the vigil, your memories of Dawn (Lafferty) Hochsprung, your tributes to Sandy Hook victims, in our comments field below. And add photos if you have them.
Thank you to all who came out last night. It was a showing of Naugatuck at its best.