A village remembers

OL holds vigil for Sandy Hook dead

By Jeff Vorva

On a cold night last Thursday during Christmas break, a small group of teenage girls were walking toward the gazebo on Oak Lawn's Village Green.

As they were getting closer to the gazebo, one of the girls gave the others a warning to heed.

"You better not laugh at me when I start crying," she said.

It was going to be that type of night.

Emotions ran high during the candlelight vigil to honor those 20 children and seven adults who were killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings on Dec. 14 in Newtown, Conn.

"I've been crying for a week," said Oak Lawn resident Jane Foley.

The tears flowed freely as an estimated 400 people gathered for the 45-minute ceremony that featured 27 area children stepping up to the microphone and reading off the victims' names. Lights and holiday decorations on the Green were shut off and candles were lit.

O ak Lawn firefighters hoisted an American flag on a truck's hydraulic platform and later sent 27 sky lanterns into the night.

O ak Lawn Mayor Dave Heilmann spoke to the crowd, and weeks after the tragedy it still affected him.

" You expect [children] to run back out [at the end of school] with a smile on their face," he said. "You don't expect to get a call with the words that no parent should ever hear. I don't know what those families are saying to each other tonight. I don't know the words they use in between the tears. I don't know how they tell their other children that their brother or sister is not coming home.

" I don't know how you walk into that room and see their clothes or see their toys and go on. But somehow you have to find a way. And maybe that comes from other communities - not just Newtown - but communities across the United States - not just Oak Lawn –where moms and dads come out on a cold winter night with their children. We're telling them, 'we're with you at the most difficult moment of your lives.'"