WOODSTOCK – When McHenry County Board member Donna Kurtz tried to sleep the night after the Newtown, Conn., shootings, she felt emptiness – and a desire to do something.
Days later, with the support of board Vice Chairman Jim Heisler, the two approached Regional Superintendent of Schools Leslie Schermerhorn in hopes of organizing a candlelight vigil.
That vigil will be from 4:30 to 5:15 p.m. Thursday on the Woodstock Square, not only to remember the 27 Newtown victims, but also to foster an open discussion regarding any concerns community members may have for their own children.
“There’s so many folks out there like us who feel like they want to do something, but what can you do?” Heisler said. “If we can all get together at Woodstock Square, by at least presenting ourselves at this vigil and holding a light to the darkness, maybe we can work toward a better understanding of what precipitated this whole tragedy.”
The candlelight vigil will be accompanied by a folk guitarist playing light, timeless tunes. At 4:45 p.m., there will be a moment of silence in memory of those lost in the shooting.
The first of two major purposes the board members had in mind for the vigil, Kurtz said, is “to acknowledge that we all share – regardless of where we come from – the concern that there is nothing more important than protecting our children.”
“Secondly, it’s to share those feelings and let this be a starting point for more community dialogue,” she said.
Throughout the vigil, volunteer students will collect contact information from adults who wish to express concerns for their children. Schermerhorn said there are plans for a coalition of concerned citizens to work toward ways to increase school safety and protect McHenry County’s children.
“I hope [community members] see that we’re taking the first steps toward change, that we want them involved, and that our No. 1 concern is the safety of their children,” Schermerhorn said.
Within the schools, Schermerhorn said, many administrators and principals already have begun to make room for improvements in emergency plans.
For the community, this vigil is the necessary means to bring to light – whether with candles, flashlights, or even the bright bluish screens of cellphones – the community’s safety concerns.
“We just can’t let this slide by and not express our feelings in some way,” Heisler said, “so here we are putting this vigil together. It’s a chance to show our strength and be together in a quiet way.
“It’s all about raising awareness.”