Local gun control activist group holds vigil to remember Sandy Hook shooting

Wednesday, December 14, 2016 - 10:39pm

Around 50 people marched down State and Liberty St. on Wednesday night in remembrance of the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. 26 people were killed in the attack, including 20 students between the ages of six and seven and six teachers and administrators at the school.

The Washtenaw County chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, an advocacy group which was established in the wake of the Newtown shooting that works to promote gun control legislation, held the event.

The vigil was organized by Maria Bailey and Theresa Reid, the communications chair and local lead of the county chapter of the orrganization. It began in the basement of the First United Methodist Church off of State St. where people gathered with signs that read the names of each of the victims of the Sandy Hook shooting and held LED candles in rememberance. 

“It’s a good reminder that even with all of this tragedy, there are lights within us, and we use that light to keep going,” Bailey said.

The event attracted many local mothers, though Reid stressed that membership to the group is open to anyone.

Before the march, Reid teared up as she read out the names and ages of each victim in front of a silent audience. 

“Since this day four years ago, tens of thousands of Americans have died from gun violence,” Reid said. “We have to end this. We have to do better than this.”

After her speech, the group began its march down State St. Despite having to shorten the intended route due to winter weather conditions, the group garnered considerable attention from passersbys.

Anna Vockel, an Ypsilanti resident, attended the event alongside her two young daughters. According to Vockel, she felt that it was important to teach them the values of activism.

“Personally, I thought it was very important,” Vockel said. “I have a first-grader, so it’s very personal for me. Too many children are dying; innocent people are dying.”

For others on campus, the day is one of remembrance. LSA sophomore Alexis Mulski, who is from Sandy Hook, Conn., attended Sandy Hook Elementary School did not attend the march, but she said in an interview prior to the event the shooting is frequently on her mind.

“It’s something that you think about every day,” Mulski said. “It’s something that you take with you. I don’t know if everyone thinks that, but I try to channel it into positive things, like motivation and energy.”

According to Mulski, Newtown has, in many ways, gone back to the way it was before the shooting. One difference that has stuck is an increased culture of kindness and support.

“Life does go on, and a lot of people have made that choice to assimilate back to normal life,” Mulski said. “Or maybe it just got easier. But there’s definitely been healing, and there’s still a lot of support. Everywhere you go, you still have your Newtown community.”

Mulski said the Sandy Hook school motto — “Think you can, work hard, get smart, be kind” — is a phrase that she carries with her in her daily life.

The concepts important to Mulski also motivated the members and organizers from Moms Demand Action on Wednesday night. At the end of the march, Bailey said she thought the evening had been a success and hopes that the night will inspire people to get involved in other ways.

“The driving force of this is an evening of peace,” Bailey said. “We want people to use it as a quiet way to get motivated. Moms Demand Action recognizes that … people are feeling all sorts of things, but we want people to reflect, and then get moving.”

According to Bailey, every state in the country now has a chapter of the group.

Reid emphasized that aside from events like this one, the group works year-round to advocate for tighter gun safety laws.

“Congress won’t pass (legislation) because when the NRA says ‘Call your legislator,’ those people call their legislators,” Reid said. “But … we have way more people than they do. So we’re trying to get a cadre of people who will call our legislators, too.”