BOUNTIFUL — The time, distance and even the weather didn’t seem to matter.
Just a month removed from one of the worst school shootings in U.S. history, people from various communities in the Top of Utah gathered Monday night in Bountiful Park for a candlelight vigil to remember the victims of Sandy Hook Elementary and to participate in what the organizer described as community therapy.
They capped off the chilly event by releasing 26 Chinese lanterns, one for each victim of the Connecticut shooting.
The vigil was organized by Jamie Palmer-Ormsby, of Bountiful, who said she was so disturbed by the massacre that she had to do something. That something including making a banner with 5-by-7 photographs of each victim of the school shooting and asking vigil participants to sign it, so it can be eventually sent to the school.
“This is just something I need to do. I want to make sure the focus is on the victims and not the shooter,” Palmer-Ormsby said.
She wasn’t the only one who needed a public healing session. Shea Heath, of Salt Lake City, brought her 5-year-old kindergartner to be part of the session. She said she didn’t know anyone in the park, but still felt the need to be part of the vigil.
“It was pretty tough and pretty emotional,” Heath said of news of the Dec. 14 shooting in Newtown.
Others brought their young children, too, including Stephanie Paget, of Farmington, who watched with her 6-year-old as lanterns were released in the parking lot into the dark, evening sky.
With temperatures hovering at 10 degrees, the gathering was short. Bountiful Mayor Joe Johnson was the only speaker, and he used the occasion to reach out to residents of Newtown, Conn., and to express thanks for local efforts to keep schoolchildren safe.
“When we think about one month ago today at Sandy Hook, it touches all of us. That day, I thought to myself, as I have 21 grandchildren, all in school, what a tragedy it would be to lose just one of them,” he said.
Johnson noted that Bountiful schools include full-time officers in the high schools and junior highs and some police presence at the elementary school level as well.
“My prayer is two-fold: One, that the people in Connecticut will know of our love, and two, my appreciation and hope people will feel our concern and love here.”