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From Small Vigils to 'SNL,' City Mourns School Shooting Victims

By Jess Wisloski | December 16, 2012 1:01pm

NEW YORK CITY — Whether it was at statues or community gardens Uptown, postage stamp-sized parks or educational centers in Brooklyn, or a brightly lit stage in front of a live audience in Rockefeller Center, New Yorkers found ways to collectively mourn, pray for, and pay tribute to the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School mass killing on Saturday night.

At the Old Stone House in Park Slope, nearly 100 local residents gathered as dusk set to talk about the killings, and try to make sense of the tragedy. They also took up a collection for the Newtown Parent Connection, which has promised all proceeds will go to the families directly affected by the shootings.

"You feel like you want to do something in the wake of a tragedy like that," said Ellen Butters, 35, an art director in Park Slope. "It's solidarity with the other parents."

"Park Slope is a close-knit community, not dissimilar to Newtown," agreed Kim Maier, director of the Old Stone House, which helped organize the vigil.

"People wanted to come together and help the parents and families in any way possible. I think there's a need [for this type of event] when something like this happens, when you realize it could happen to any of us."

In Manhattan, a small group gathered in Riverside Park at 5 p.m., around the Eleanor Roosevelt statue at West 72nd Street, singing Christmas carols and patriotic hymns.

Faith Bullard, 8, said she came to "pay my respects to all the children that died yesterday. It's very sad."

Her mom, Jessica Alayo, 28, agreed. "It's a tragedy that should never have happened, especially before the holidays. My condolences go out to all the families," she said.

Leonorie Blitz, who organized the Manhattan vigil, saw the gathering was a way to organize. "I think there are no words to describe what happened yesterday," she said. "I think this country needs to look at our gun laws and also the way we deal with mental health issues so something like this never happens again."

On Saturday Night Live, which normally starts with an intro or a sketch before the opening credits, an image of a lit candle instead opened the television show at 11:30 p.m.

Instead of a routine spoof with costumed comedians, the New York City Children's Chorus filled the stage on risers, in red robes, singing the traditional carol "Silent Night," which then faded to black. 

Moments later, they returned, shouting that standard, "Live from New York, it's Saturday Night!"

Vigils were set to continue with nightly gatherings at the Riverside-Inwood Neighborhood Garden from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at Dyckman Street and Broadway.