One year after Parkland shootings, remembering the victims of gun violence

FAIRFIELD — On the one-year anniversary of the day a gunman stormed into Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, killing 17 people, people gathered at First Congregational Church in Fairfield to commemorate their lives.

Alumni of the Parkland school read the names of each victim, ringing a bell after each name. That was just one of many moving tributes to take place Thursday night.

Evan Smith, 15, of Fairfield, spoke about losing his cousin, Alex Schachter, then 14, on that day. Schachter had dreams of attending UConn and playing trombone in the marching band.

Smith said his Jewish faith has helped him to cope with the loss.

“We feel so connected to these people,” said Mike Song, who lost his son Ethan just two weeks before the Parkland shooting, to a loaded gun left unsecured at a neighbor’s house.

The Songs are now working with state legislators to pass ‘Ethan’s Law,’ which would strengthen firearm storage laws in Connecticut.

“People have been saying online, ‘there’s no way I can lock up my guns because it would just take too long to open the safe,’” Song said, demonstrating and displaying a gun storage container. “I just want to show you, it opens so fast these days.”

He tapped three buttons and then opened the container.

Joining in solidarity, survivors of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting spent their Valentine’s Day night to commemorate those lost in Parkland.

Jordan Gomes was just 9 years old when a gunman entered her school, Sandy Hook.

“In the Parkland students, I saw and continue to see myself in them,” said Gomes. “A person lost by gun violence should not be remembered by that act. They should be remembered as the person that they were.”

In a statement, the president of the Connecticut Citizens Defense League, Scott Wilson, responded to the event and talk of new legislation.

"While we mourn the loss of life that took place one year ago, we urge some restraint by our legislators. We ask to not let a tragedy such as the one that took place at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland FL to justify passage of legislation that would further restrict constitutional rights. Our 2nd Amendment is important as I allows people to defend themselves and their families.

“We ask and urge our legislators to sit down with us so we can draft meaningful legislation that will make people safer through safety and educational programs, and still protect the rights of citizens.

"While we mourn the loss of life that took place one year ago, we urge some restraint by our legislators. We ask to not let a tragedy such as the one that took place at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland FL  to justify passage of legislation that would further restrict constitutional rights. Our 2nd Amendment is important as I allows people to defend themselves and their families."

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