About 50 people gathered at a vigil in West Hartford’s Blue Back Square Wednesday evening to remember the victims of the Las Vegas shootings, and to rally against gun violence.
Speakers urged the crowd to embrace kindness, sang songs in unity and lit candles, reading aloud the names of the victims.
Earlier in the day, 10 people attended a noon vigil at Avon Congregational Church.
“I wanted to be with people who were experiencing the same suffering from the impact of what happened. I needed to be in a community,” Donna Hobbs, of Glastonbury, said at the Avon vigil. “I wanted something where we share an inner connection with faith and find a way to open our hearts to light when there is so much darkness we have been dealing with lately.”
Dobbs said she heard about the vigil through the Rev. Donna Manocchio, a friend and one of the church’s ministers.
Other vigils were held Wednesday around the state and more are planned in the coming days.
Sunday’s massacre left 59 people dead, including the shooter, and more than 500 injured. The victims were remembered at Wednesday’s vigils, but it also was a chance for people to try to make sense of what happened.
Organizer Sarah Raskin said the reason for Wednesday's gathering in West Hartford was to stand in solidarity against gun violence, and with the Newtown Action Alliance that also held a vigil on Wednesday, and also to honor the victims who died Sunday night.
Another organizer, Jillian Gilchrest, said, "Things are getting worse. This is a call for change. There are policies that can address gun violence."
She said Wednesday night's vigil was held partly to "mobilize folks and say 'Enough is enough, let's not make gun violence the norm.' "
West Hartford town Councilor Beth Kerrigan said she was saddened and heartbroken by the shootings in Las Vegan. She said that other tragedies, like the recent hurricanes, brought people together, but that tragedies involving gun violence still divide people.
State Sen. Beth Bye noted the smallergathering Wednesday night compared to the crowd that attended the vigil for victims of the shootings at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando in June 2016. "We've become numb to this," Bye said.
The Avon church also opened its doors for a vigil after the shooting in Orlando that left 49 people dead. Earlier this summer, the church also hosted a vigil in response to the riots that followed a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va.
“What I feel is the enormity of the chaos and violence that has become a part of the landscape and right now community is essential, it is the community that heals,” said Peruse Khachoyan, a church member who helped organize the vigil. “My hope is that people leave here feeling like they have control over their lives and not devastated by fear.”
Norm Keeney, another church member, said he has tried to see the good side of people in the aftermath of the Las Vegas shootings. He said the heroism of concert-goers who helped others who had been injured has stuck with him.
“The American spirit was there, people were helping people,” Keeney said.
Two vigils are planned for Friday. The Archdiocese of Hartford said the victims in Las Vegas will be remembered during a short prayer session at noon on Friday at the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Hartford. The cathedral’s regularly scheduled Mass will follow at 12:10 p.m.
At 6 p.m. on Friday, Canton residents will hold a vigil in the auditorium at Canton High School to remember the victims, First Selectman Leslee Hill said.