Vigil for Connecticut victims held in Palmetto

ejohnson@bradenton.comDecember 21, 2012 

PALMETTO -- Dozens gathered around the flag pole at Lincoln Memorial Middle School on Friday morning to honor victims of the Newtown, Conn., school shootings with a 26 Acts of Kindness prayer vigil.

Wind whipped the flag, flying at half-staff, as teachers, students, government officials and Lincoln Memorial High School alumni huddled together.

"We wanted to show our concern for victims and their families," said Moody Johnson, president of the Lincoln Memorial Alumni Association. "It could have been our child, my

grandson or granddaughter. They can lean on us. Even though we're a distance from them, we're all united in Christ Jesus."

The group circled a wreath, with the names and birth dates of the 20 children and six adults killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

"We want to let the world know we are praying," Johnson said.

Lincoln Middle School Principal Ronnie King opened the program in prayer, asking God to lead, guide and wake up the nation.

Gwen McElroy shared scripture addressing child-like faith.

"I would like to think God has his hands on all those children and adults who lost their lives last Friday," McElroy said.

The victims' names, birth dates and ages were called as small silver-framed plaques for each of the deceased were placed at the base of the flag pole.

Angela Garrott wiped away tears as she recognized Avielle Richman, 6, and Sandy Hook Principal Dawn Hochsprung, 47.

"I taught elementary school," said Garrott, who now teaches AVID, a college prep course at Lincoln Middle School. "You forget how fragile life is, how quickly things can change. It's important for me as a teacher to bless these children and show respect."

Four ministers led the group with prayers of encouragement, asking for protection, healing and unity. The crowd then joined together for an a capella rendition of "He's Got The Whole World In His Hands."

Johnson closed the ceremony, asking adults to greet students as they arrived at school to "put a smile on their face."

Garrott stared at the memorial as the crowd dispersed.

"I guess why it hit me is they were so young," Garrott said. "They didn't have a chance to live their dreams."

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