More than 100 people, many of them children and teenagers, gathered in Bel Air's Shamrock Park Wednesday evening to honor the memory of the 27 people killed in last Friday's Newtown, Conn., school shootings.
Clustered in front of the William A. Humbert Amphitheater, those attending the vigil talked in hushed tones, lit candles and sang "Silent Night," following the words of one of the speakers to "Heal our Land."
Joy McDowell's voice broke as she welcomed the group. "We can't go there to grieve...but we are here for the victims," McDowell, who organized the vigil, said.
"As a country we have an opportunity to change our lives," Pastor Terence Thompson of Love Fellowship Christian Center, one of the speakers, said.
He was followed to the podium by Pastor Norma Tilton of Our Father's Heart, who read the names of each of the 20 first-graders and six adults from Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown who were killed. A seventh adult name was read, Nancy Lanza, the mother of the shooter, who was killed in her home before her son went on the school rampage and then killed himself.
Some people in the audience began to weep as the children's names were read.
In his remarks before the candles were lit, Pastor Allan Gorman of Harford Community Church said the mourners could "bring a light into a dark place."
As people came one-by-one to the base of the stage to light their candles, a recording of "Prayer of the Children" was played over the loudspeaker. Then, candles lit, the group sang "Silent Night" a cappella before quietly dispersing.
"Wonderful," McDowell said afterward about the turnout and the atmosphere in the park. "I'm very pleased."
She said the vigil was a cooperative effort involving several individuals, local churches, business and the Bel Air Police Department, which provided security and helped with the park setup. McDowell likewise said she was happy so many young people had attended.