Boston mourns for Newtown school shooting victims
It didn’t matter that Newtown, Conn., is about 150 miles away from Boston. The impact and grief in the wake of Friday’s mass shooting was felt here at home all weekend.
“What has happened in these days in Newtown, Connecticut is a tragedy of almost biblical proportions that has caused the whole country to stop and to take notice,” said Cardinal Sean O’Malley during his Sunday homily.
Speaking at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in the South End, O’Malley said Sunday’s Mass was offered in solidarity with those who lost loved ones when 20-year-old Adam Lanza forced his way in to Sandy Hook Elementary School and killed 26 people including 20 first grade students. It was one of the worst mass shootings in the country’s history.
“It’s hard for us to imagine how deep the pain is of those families whose little ones lost their lives,” he said. “The whole country has been shaken by this tragic event.”
Flags in cities and towns across the state were lowered to half staff in the aftermath of the shooting. Anti-violence groups such as the Boston Ten Point Coalition urged faith leaders to lead prayers in remembrance of the victims and vigils were held during the weekend in memory of the young lives lost.
“As a parent and grandparent, I am overcome with both grief and outrage by the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut. This unspeakable act of violence will forever imprint this day in our hearts and minds,” Mayor Thomas Menino said in a statement.
At the Old South Church in Boston near Copley Square, clergy members lit 28 candles in memory of all of the victims.
A motive for the shooting was still not clear Sunday and authorities were trying to put together a picture of Lanza as part of their investigation.
But during his homily, O’Malley called upon the country to improve the resources available for those dealing with mental illness.
“As a whole country … we must recognize our society’s inability to deal with mental illness in a more effective way,” he said.
Guns talk of town
With 20 first-grade students suddenly gunned down inside their school, the debate over gun control has once again been pushed to the forefront.
“There can be no rational justification for allowing people to have personal arsenals of assault weapons,” Cardinal Sean O’Malley said in his Sunday homily. “How many innocent people will have to be slaughtered before the country is prepared to stop this madness?”
Mayor Thomas Menino, who co-chairs group Mayors Against Illegal Guns, said the tragedy is a reminder that “now is the time for action.”
“Now is the time for a national policy on guns that takes the loopholes out of the laws, the automatic weapons out of our neighborhoods and the tragedies like [Friday’s] out of our future.”
The Jamaica Plain-based group Citizens for Safety urged followers to sign an online petition that demands a plan on gun control from President Barack Obama. As of Sunday afternoon the petition had more than 27,000 signatures.
Protection at schools increased
Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis said shortly after Friday’s shooting that he had been in contact with Boston Public Schools officials and while there was no connection to the Boston area, steps would be taken to increase safety.
“The shooting is disturbing,” Davis said Friday. “Accordingly, we will be increasing uniformed police patrols in and around schools over the next several days.”