One year after a gunman killed six people and wounded 13 in Tucson, AZ, including U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, communities around the nation marked the day with vigils and prayer.
In Northbrook and in Glencoe, residents and religious leaders from around the north suburbs gathered Sunday to hold hands or light candles, listen to speeches and bow their heads in silence for those who had died.
"What happened in Tucson could happen here,” said Rabbi Steve Lowenstein, who led a vigil at Temple Am Shalom in Glencoe. “Our response to each other is to broaden the spirit and prevent violence."
Religious Leaders in Northbrook Call For Change
The roughly 50 people who gathered at in Northbrook remembered not just the shooting in Tucson but an incident that took place in Northbrook just 12 days earlier. On Dec. 28, police shut down Partridge Lane and evacuated residents as they attempted to reach a man who had barricaded himself in his home with a gun. When they finally broke down the door, they discovered .
Northbrook resident Lee Goodman organized the vigil before the incident took place, but he said he did not consider changing the program.
“That’s a violent death by a gun,” he said. “Who pulled the trigger, it doesn’t matter to the impact it has on the family, the community.”
In conjunction with “Too Many Victims,” a nationwide day of mourning for victims of gun violence, Goodman brought together six religious leaders as well as a representative from the Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence. Between remarks from the panelists, members of the audience read from a list of names and ages of 111 people who have died from gun violence in the last three months in the Chicago area.
Both Rev. John Berg, pastor of , and Rabbi Sidney Helbraun of commented that gun violence is so common, it’s easy to ignore.
“Tragedies of violence are so routine they aren’t even news,” Helbraun said. “We’ve become accustomed to turning the blind eye.”
He and the other panelists exhorted the audience to work toward change.
“My challenge to you is to do something so we’re not back here honoring more victims next year,” said Mark Walsh, Director of the Illinois Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.
Rev. Mike Nevling, pastor of the , described his experience up-close with gun violence while working in his first parish in North Carolina. He was assigned to a “Rockwellian” small town where residents left their doors unlocked and their windows open in the summer. Then one day, someone shot the night manager of the local 7-Eleven.
It turned out the shooter was someone who lived in Nevling’s town—a troubled young man who tended to be a loner.
“The process of ‘What if?’ occurred,” Nevling recalled. “What if someone had reached out to him? What if someone had tried to be his friend?’”
Gradually, the community changed.
“People began to lock their doors and windows—and reach out to people who were alone,” he said.
Glencoe Resident Recalls News of the Shooting
In Glencoe, more than 100 people gathered at Temple Am Shalom to light candles and listen to a reading of the names of the people who were killed or injured in Tucson. Glencoe resident Susan Sholl remembered how she felt that day, when she realized a friend had been shot three times. Her friend was the one who brought the young girl who died, Christina Taylor Green, to see congresswoman Giffords at the Safeway supermarket that day.
Following remarks by Rabbi Lowenstein as well as Glencoe Public Safety Director Mike Volling, community members watched a screening of the film The Interrupters. The documentary tells the story of three people who try to stop gang violence at its heart in some of the most dangerous neighborhoods in Chicago.
Ricardo Williams, who is one of the “interrupters” portrayed in the movie, said he hoped to encourage young people to make positive choices.
“Each of them should surround themselves with positive people,” he said. “I want to teach them you can be what you want to be."
The vigils in Northbrook and Glencoe were just two of some 70 gatherings held around the nation as part of “Too Many Victims.”