Thursday marked five years since 20 students and six adults were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown.
Vigils to honor and remember the victims are planned both for Thursday night and the upcoming weekend.
A group born from that violent day continues to work to go beyond Newtown.
The Newtown Action Alliance organized nationwide vigils to honor all victims of gun violence.
Over the weekend, there was a candlelight vigil in Westport. This weekend there will be vigils in both Hartford and Madison.
A vigil is planned at Stratford's Town Hall on Thursday night. It's organized by the Vicki Soto Memorial Fund.
Thursday is also a day for the victims' families, friends and community members to come together in privacy to mourn the loss of their loved ones.
"Every year, it's significantly sad for the community," said Po Murray, chairman, Newtown Action Alliance & Newtown Foundation. "But, at the same time there's some resiliency in the community because we don't want to be defined by the tragedy. We want to be defined by the changes, and the good efforts put forth by the community members and families themselves."
There was a virtual moment of silence at 9:35 a.m.
Organizers called it interfaith and non-partisan that can be observed anywhere. More details about it can be found on this Facebook page.
It ran until 9:40 a.m.
While the pain never goes away, parents said groups like Sandy Hook Promise have helped them remain focused on preventing mass shootings.
"His legacy lives on through these programs and that's the only way I can think to pay tribute to my little boy," said Nicole Hockley, mother of Sandy Hook victim Dylan Hockley.
Gov. Dannel Malloy directed all flags to half staff from sunrise to sunset.
There is no permanent memorial in Newtown.
However, in Jan. 2017, the memorial commission and an advisory panel will sit in on a public forum to discuss design ideas.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal took to the Senate floor around 10:45 a.m. to mark the date.
He released a statement in which he chastised Congress for inaction when it comes to gun laws.“Today marks the fifth anniversary of one of the darkest moments in our nation’s history. I stand in awe of the families who, through unimaginable grief and pain, have shown unparalleled courage and resilience. We must never forget the innocent lives lost that day, and we must never abandon their cause.Shame on Congress for allowing yet another year to pass without action. Shame on Congress for allowing this tragic anniversary to be followed by so many more—in Sutherland Springs, in Las Vegas, in Orlando, in Charleston, and in our communities each and every day. Each day that passes marked by inaction, Congress turns its back on the will of the American public--complicit as 90 more lives are lost to the scourge of gun violence.Today and every day, we must honor with action. I will not give up this fight.”
Murray echoed those words.
"In order for us to truly end gun violence in America, we need more Americans to step up and demand action from legislators," he said. "Until then, nothing will change. We encourage you to step up and join us in our fight."
Congressman John Larson issued a statement that said "On this day five years ago, 26 lives were senselessly cut short at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Our hearts still ache. My heart goes out to the friends and families of all the victims," said Larson. "I'm also frustrated that nothing has been done. Since this tragic day, the House has still yet to hold a vote on common sense gun violence prevention legislation, like universal background checks. The King-Thompson Public Safety and Second Amendment Rights Protection Act is a bipartisan bill that upholds the Second Amendment, while strengthening background checks and fortifying state and federal record keeping in order to keep guns out of the hands of convicted criminals. Unfortunately, it doesn't stand a chance to see the light of day until the Republicans stand up to the gun lobby and take a vote. In five years all Congress has done is offered its thoughts and prayers to the victims of gun violence. Inaction is no longer an option. The American people overwhelmingly support common sense gun safety legislation. The time for Congress to act is now."
Sen. Chris Murphy said "It changed the town of Newtown, it changed this country and the way that we think about gun violence, and it certainly changed me."
In the days and years after the massacre, senators Blumenthal and Murphy joined with families of the victims to try to come up with common sense measures against gun violence, but were consistently met with resistance.
“I’ve been down to this floor over 50 times, often at my wits end, raising my voice at my colleagues in frustration at our quiet and unintentional endorsement of the slaughter that happens in this country because we haven’t passed a single piece of legislation trying to make sense of our nation’s gun laws," Murphy said.
Today those children killed would be 11 years old and the educators would still be shaping lives.
Twenty-six angels taken far too soon, in a heartbreaking tragedy that will never be forgotten.
“As we commemorate this awful day, 5 years ago, let us rededicate ourselves to action, honor those victims with action...honor all victims with action,” Blumenthal said.
Also in a statement on Thursday, Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty said "Twenty schoolchildren and six educators – twenty six- and seven-year-olds – were ripped from the community of Newtown,” Esty said. “I remember that day. I was a newly-elected Member of Congress, learning about what it means to serve in this august body, when I started to receive e-mails and text messages telling me that something terrible happened at home. And by noon, I learned the worst: that children had been killed. I threw my things in the car and drove from Boston. I called my mother, I called my minister, and I prayed for wisdom, guidance, and the courage to face the families. I arrived to find families being notified that the children they had put on the bus that morning – children who were thinking of Hanukkah, of the start of Christmas, and of the newly-fallen snow on the ground – those children would never come home. It’s sad. It’s sad and it’s inexcusable that as I stand here five years later, the people’s House still has not taken action.”
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