WESTFIELD, NJ – Residents, government officials and religious leaders came together in Westfield for a candlelight vigil on Friday evening to mourn the victims of Sunday night’s mass shooting in Las Vegas. It was one of several such events held in Union County.
The vigil was organized by Westfield 20/20 members Deirdre Gelinne (chair of the gun safety committee) and Marci Bandelli. Among the participants were Councilman Keith Loughlin, Deputy Mayor Jo Ann Neylan and mayoral candidate Shelley Brindle.
The vigil was opened and closed with prayers by Rabbi Douglas Sagal from Temple Emanu-El and Rev. Anthony J. Randazzo from The Catholic Church of the Holy Trinity.
“I’m not sure that this is a time for comfort,” Sagal said in his emotional opening remarks. “This past week, we heard a lot of examples of prayer without meaning. Every time national elected leaders, in the wake of another mass murder, offer prayers, it does nothing to curb these outrages. Every time we offer a prayer without meaning, it’s a waste of breath. It’s taking God’s name in vain.”
Sagal continued to pray for action that ends gun violence by holding elected officials accountable.
“We have too many elected leaders who place their own financial well-being before the well-being of their citizens,” Sagal said. “They line their pockets with the blood-soaked contributions of their donors, who do not care that parents are now fearful to say goodbye to their children when they send them to school. There are good citizens of all political parties who need to say ‘We are coming for you. We are going to turn you out of office. We are going to make sure you never hold office again. It is an honor and a privilege to serve the people of this country and it is an honor and a privilege that you do not deserve.' It’s as simple as that.”
After Sagal’s remarks, Deputy Mayor Jo Ann Neylan offered her condolences to the victims and their families. She was followed by Bandelli, who read a poem written by Rev. Deb Vaughn following the 2012 mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut.
“May there be a night without gunshots, a day without a brokenhearted family’s tears,” the poem reads. “Make it stop. May it be. Bring your peace.”
Bandelli also spoke in honor of the victims, pledging to fight for an end to gun violence.
“To every victim of gun violence, I want to be your voice and fight for common sense gun legislation in your honor,” Bandelli said. “You have not died in vain.”
While candles were lit in memoriam, Gelinne read the names of the 58 victims.
“The youngest victim was 20 and the oldest was 67,” Gelinne said. “They were all people in the prime of life.”
In closing, all in attendance sang a rendition of “Let There be Peace on Earth” and Randazzo led a prayer that echoed Sagal’s call for action
“We are people with passionate hearts, dire for reform within our society,” Randazzo said. “Remember those who brave catastrophic loss of a loved one. We pledge to do what we can do as prayer in action.”