As the sun set over downtown Southington Tuesday night, a crowd of over 75 area residents lit their candles in memory of the 12 killed during a shooting at a movie theater in Aurora, Colo.
The participants stood silence outside the , a tribute to the many lives touched by the actions of a 24-year-old with semi-automatic weapons, as the only sounds in the air came from a few passing cars and a rendition of Sarah McLachlin’s “Will You Remember Me.”
It was the type of tribute that 22-year-old graduate Alex Vivian and Dawn Karlson, youth minister at the First Congregational Church, were hoping for as they hosted a Rally for Peace.
“Today, we are standing up and showing Colorado that they are not alone,” Vivian said. “This is not just a tragedy for them. It’s a tragedy for all of America.”
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The Tuesday evening rally, organized by Vivian as a way of fighting back against violence and honor those affected by the Colorado tragedy, was just the first step in what he hopes will be an ongoing push to make America a safe place again.
For those in attendance, many who are already involved in the community through organizations , the July 20 shooting may have occurred 1,800 miles away, but it was something that hit very close to home.
Southington residents Kyle Niles and Matt Shea each said they were heartbroken when they heard the news following the shooting and were impressed to see Vivian and his friends step up to organize the rally. They said it may seem like a small step, but it was an important way for residents in central Connecticut to show their support.
“It’s one of those stories that just touches everyone’s heart,” said Niles, who also supports Vivian’s quest to have semi-automatic weapons banned. “This could have happened anywhere in America.”
Paul Vivian, Alex’s father, said his son was in a showing of The Dark Knight Rises, when the shooting occurred. He said he hasn’t been able to stop thinking about how one of the victims could have been his own son.
In just two decades, Alex Vivian said tragic events like that which happened in Colorado, Columbine, Virginia Tech and Washington D.C. have made it clear that it’s time for residents to reach out and take a stand against laws that allow people to gain easy access to semi-automatic and automatic weapons. Now, he said, is the time for change.
Vivian also received support from Ellen Perkins-Simpson, a staff member at the Friendship Center in New Britain, who told stories of two Connecticut teenagers who were killed as a result of violence on the streets.
One felt he had nowhere to turn and became involved in gangs, dying in a violent shooting after trying to get out. The other had no gang affiliation at all, instead being shot and killed while walking through his neighborhood and getting caught in the crosshair of a gang war.
“I don’t want to live in a world where our children can no longer even go see a movie safely. The violence needs to stop,” Perkins-Simpson said.
Although the Rally for Peace is a first step, Vivian said he would make sure the effort doesn’t end here.
“I need to stress, this isn’t the end,” Vivian said. “It’s the beginning of a movement that won’t end until we force change.”
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