Westminster vigil to be held Wednesday for victims of Connecticut shooting

Vera Brooks did not know Noah Pozner, but she heard his story.

Noah, 6, had a twin sister. He had just celebrated Hanukkah with family. He had brown eyes and a bright smile.

He was the youngest of 20 elementary school students killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., Friday by an armed assassin.

"It just broke my heart," Brooks said.

She felt compelled to do something in the hopes of helping the suffering families in Connecticut. So Brooks and her three grandchildren are organizing a vigil from 3 to 7 p.m. Wednesday at Westminster City Park off Longwell Avenue.

Maybe they'll sell cookies and hot chocolate and donate proceeds to the Connecticut. Perhaps someone will sing or speak at a candle light service. Brooks is still working on the details in an event quickly being pulled together.

At minimum, it will be a chance for members of the community to come together and discuss what happened.

If well-wishers want to bring stuffed animals, Brooks said she could figure out a way to get them to Newtown before Christmas.

Brooks rented the two pavilions at Westminster City Hall. The Westminster Parks and Recreation Service is not affiliated with this event, employee Kristi Turgeon said.

Kordell and Kendall Glasco and Imahnee McCloud, Brooks' grandchildren, will be there. The three children, all between the ages of 9-11, are old enough to comprehend the mass murder in Newtown and were saddened by the tragedy.

They went to school Monday thinking about what happened at Newtown, Brooks said. For many Carroll students, the Columbine High School tragedy happened before they were born. Two student gunmen killed 13 at the Colorado school 13 years ago.

School officials met Monday afternoon to discuss possible heightened safety measures to put into place at county schools, according to Coordinator of School Security Larry Faries.

Since Friday's shooting, Faries has talked to numerous parents about what the school system does to prevent a similar tragedy from occurring.

"We do the absolute best we can," he said.

But Sandy Hook Elementary School had strict security measures in place and the gunman was still able to gain entrance into the building by force, Faries said. He added that there is never a guarantee of complete safety, even at home or at a store.

"There is no way you can guarantee anyone that their child will be 100 percent safe in a school building," he said.

About five our of 43 schools in the county have a system where visitors must be buzzed into the building after presenting a photo identification.

"They're very expensive," Faries said. "I don't have an unlimited budget."

At the meeting of school officials, Faries said they planned to discuss the possibility of having all doors locked during school days. But that is almost impossible for the high schools, since students are often traveling back and forth from the Carroll County Career and Technology Center, college classes or internships. The high school identification cards do not interact with the school security systems to allow building entry, he said.

Faries said the school system has a great working relationship will law enforcement. Many police agencies have increased patrol checks at schools to act as a crime deterrent.

Not all schools have cameras, but the school system is working on putting surveillance systems in every school.

"We're doing everything possible to take care of their kids," he said.

In a letter to employees Friday, Superintendent of Schools Steve Guthrie said that all schools have emergency plans, train staff and hold regular safety drills, and the staff members monitor the main entrance to each school and any visitors are required to sign in with the main office.

He went on to encourage community members, students and staff to report suspicious activity or any concerns to school administrators or teachers.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Reach staff writer Brandon Oland at 410-857-7862 or brandon.oland@carrollcountytimes.com.

Reach staff writer Alisha George at 410-857-7876 or alisha.george@carrollcountytimes.com.