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At Western a step toward healing

Updated 10:24 pm, Wednesday, December 19, 2012
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DANBURY -- "We all feel like our hearts have been ripped out of our lives, like we've all lost a child," said Jean Gallagher, of Brookfield. "So we're all just gathered together to try and make some sense out of it."

On Wednesday night, some 3,000 people whose hearts were ripped out last Friday gathered to remember 20 first-graders and six faculty members slaughtered at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, and send their thoughts and prayers to community that will be forever scarred by their deaths.

For 90 minutes, the cavernous O'Neill Center at Western Connecticut State University echoed with the harmonious voices of children, the comforting words of clergymen and the spontaneous applause of the audience when the singers and speakers sounded notes that, at least for a moment, filled the void left by the what one attendee called "the indescribable tragedy."

The "Tribute to Newtown" organized by members of the Housatonic Valley Council of Elected Officials, may not have helped people make sense of why 20-year-old Adam Lanza did what he did, it did at least provide some temporary relief for many still reeling from his actions.

"Our residents were asking for something," said New Fairfield First Selectman John Hodge.

The event was hosted by the university, which Western President James Schmotter noted also suffered losses in the shootings.

Two people with connections to Western were victims. Noted jazz saxophonist Jimmy Greene, an assistant professor of music, lost his daughter, Ana Grace Marquez-Greene, 6, and Ann Marie Murphy, who was a teacher's aide at Sandy Hook, was the mother of nursing student Thomas Murphy, he said.

"I think as a community, it made us feel better," said Ginna Fiorentini, a kindergarten teacher from Wilton. "It's not ever going to go away, but it helped make me strong enough to face my kids tomorrow."

jpirro@newstimes.com; 203-731-3342

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