Holding candles and bundled up against the cold, approximately 75 people gathered on the Academy Lawn on Saturday evening to remember the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting and call for an end to gun violence.
“The mass murder in Newtown, Conn., one of the darkest events in U.S. history, happened in the middle of December, one of the darkest times of the year. Tonight, we answer that darkness, and the darkness of all the shootings that have happened before or since, with lights of hope and commitment,” said Mara Gorman, of Newark Moms Demand Action.
The newly formed local chapter is a subset of the national organization Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, which was founded in the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting. The group advocates for gun control legislation, runs gun safety programs and seeks to tackle issues like poverty, which Gorman said is often the root cause of gun violence.
Held on the seventh anniversary of the Sandy Hook shooting, Saturday’s vigil was intended to honor the 26 people gunned down in Newtown as well as raise awareness of the upcoming Delaware legislative session. Speakers at the event encouraged attendees to participate in a rally in Dover next month calling on legislators to pass gun control measures that did not advance last year.
“We must have the same clout and determination as has been demonstrated by the anti-gun-control groups,” said Donna Shand, of Delaware United Action PAC.
Megan O’Donnell Clements told the crowd that for many people, it’s easy forget about mass shootings like Sandy Hook once the initial shock wears off.
“You send your best thoughts and you pray for those affected by yet another horrible tragedy,” she said. “And then like you and I have done so many times before, you forget, you move on, and you go forward until the next time, and the cycle repeats once again.”
However, that all changed for Clements on Oct. 1, 2017, when she was attending a country music festival in Las Vegas. A gunman opened fire on the crowd, killing 58 people and wounding more than 400. Clements made it back to Delaware safely, but now hearing the news of another mass shooting affects her in a much different way, she said.
“So tonight, if I could leave you with one piece of advice, it would be not to be like me,” she said. “Don’t do what I did. Don’t wait until it becomes personal to act. Because then, let me tell you from experience, it might be too late.”
Wyatt Patterson, a University of Delaware freshman and the leader of March for Our Lives Delaware, was 11 when the Sandy Hook shooting happened. She said she began advocating for gun control after the 2018 school shooting in Parkland, Fla.
“On days like this, when we gather in sorrow and remember the gut-wrenching news of children and teachers killed, sometimes it’s difficult to keep going. It’s difficult to keep fighting, to keep saying ‘never again,’ each time tragedy strikes when the violence never seems to stop,” Patterson said. “The challenge is to keep believing that the next one may be the last one, to keep believing that we can make change. In memory of those innocent children and brave teachers and principals, we pause to grieve, and we resolve to get back to work.”