The Port Arthur News
Families huddled together in the darkness at the far end of Nederland’s Tex Ritter Park Thursday night, their only illumination coming from small lit candles as a nearby screen projected photos of the 26 victims of the recent Newtown, Conn. shooting.
The crowd of about 100 people included parents, grandparents and children of all ages who gathered in a vigil intended to unite the two communities.
The scene was in stark contrast to the rest of the park where festive holiday lights, decorative candy canes and giant Christmas tree welcomed visitors to the area.
The Rev. Dan Malain of St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church spoke of children as a miraculous gift from God and of the “20 beautiful children tragically killed and six wonderful teachers who gave their lives” to protect the students.
“Prayer can cover large distances,” Malain said. “We are reaching out to those whose families lost children and to families who lost the teachers. We reach out with love through prayer.”
Malain said as a community we need to protect our children from all evil whether physical, moral, emotional or spiritual and do what we know is right in our hearts.
The Rev. Malcolm Monroe of First Methodist Church in Nederland said though there is evil in the world there is also good.
“As one can choose to do harm and evil, we can choose to do good,” Monroe said.
Nederland Mayor Richard “Dick” Nugent asked that on Christmas day as we celebrate the birth of Christ we take a minute to offer a prayer for those affected by the tragedy.
“Take a moment to say a prayer to the Lord above, mend their hearts,” Nugent said.
Dotti Curl, an educator in Nederland Independent School District, said her first reaction upon hearing of the mass shootings in Connecticut was to put her arms around her kids. Then she wondered what would happen if a similar incident occurred in the city where there are elementary schools on just about every corner.
Curl shifted focus to the positive and how we can help others.
“Think of the difference we can make in our community,” Curl said. “Maybe donate time or money or a pint of blood. I challenge you in the wake of this disaster to be the one person who steps up and makes the community the way we all want it to be.”
Malain quoted an old proverb saying “it is better to light a candle then curse the darkness” before beginning the candle lighting portion of the event.
As the light from a single candle in turn was used to light a multitude of candles members of Nederland High School Choir performed Silent Night and slowly the candle broke through the darkness.
Julie Ela and her grandson Austin, age 6, were joined by Emily Picazo and her grandsons, Julian, 11 and Elijah, 12.
“I’m really proud the city came through and did this,” Julie Ela said.
Ela was pleased to see the crowd and said she and her family attended the event as a way to support the Connecticut community and offer prayer for their families.
Picazo said the vigil was a way for the grandchildren to know they didn’t have to hold grief in and that they could talk about it and offer prayers for others.
The Nederland Chamber of Commerce organized the candlelight vigil as a way for the public to come out and pay their respects and to unite both communities and offer prayers for Newton, Conn.