Lawmakers lead Newtown vigil in Congress
Updated 10:15 pm, Monday, December 17, 2012
WASHINGTON -- The seven members of Connecticut's congressional delegation led a vigil service in the nation's capital Monday night for the victims of the Newtown school massacre, delivering remarks that reflected their pain and exhaustion.
Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., the senior member of the state delegation, told the mourners that the "families of Newtown will take comfort in knowing that we are here" tonight to memorialize the 20 grade school students and six adults slaughtered at the Sandy Hook Elementary School on Friday morning.
The service in the Senate's Kennedy Caucus Room convened just minutes after word flashed through the halls of Congress of the death of Sen. Dan Inouye, D-Hawaii, 88, the second-longest-serving senator in history.
Later, the House adopted a Newtown resolution sponsored by the state's five House members that offered the condolences of the "chamber, saluted the town's first responders and committed the House to work together to prevent future tragedies.
Rep. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., whose House district includes Newtown, gave an emotional account of how he and Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., had spent the last four days in Newtown, comforting families, meeting with first responders and helping the community grieve.
"There are no words to explain what this small community is going through,'' Murphy said. "When people ask, `How are they doing?' we can't even answer that question yet. People don't know how to process this. There is no precedent for this. Maybe just today, as funerals start, people are really starting to understand it."
Blumenthal told how he was in Hartford on Friday and, after hearing the Newtown news on the radio, went to the Newtown fire house _ which served as an information center for parents of students at the school _ and "will live forever with the sounds and sights of those parents. They cried, sobbed, tried to grieve, be angry. The horror."
"I went there as a public official," Blumenthal said, "but I saw things through the eyes of a parent.''
"Those are four days I don't want to relive. Ever."
All seven speakers cited President Obama's remarks Sunday night at Newtown High School when he urged unspecified action to protect against the kind of mass shootings such as the Sandy Hook school tragedy.
Although Lieberman and the other lawmakers expressed their hopes that such a tragedy would never happen again, most of the speakers didn't address specific legislative changes that they would seek. The politically touchy issue of tightening gun control laws received scant attention and then only in oblique terms.
Lieberman noted the president's comment that "this issue is complicated,'' which many analysts took to mean gun controls.
Himes, in later remarks on the House floor, said, "We are a country that's awash in guns, drowning in guns." Some of these guns are not used by hunters, Himes said, but "are designed for the explicit purpose of killing lots of people as rapidly as possible." Himes said the United States has made a "religion out of violence, as solution, as entertainment, as a pastime, as a country that has lost that notion that we are a family, that we have obligations to each other."
DeLauro called for measures to assure access to quality mental health care and "strengthening our gun laws.''
Rep. John Larson, D-East Hartford, said, "We know, all of us, as parents, as citizens, but most importantly as elected officials, that this will happen again if we do not respond, if we do not act, if we don't endeavor to bring everybody together in a deeper dialogue about this culture of violence, about all the kids that never get spoken about in our cities, they're victims of drive-by shootings. . . We have the authority of the people to act. Not to seize the moment, not to respond, is to be complicit, is not to protect the most innocent amongst us, our children. And I know everybody in both chambers, including Mr. President, understands that. Let's act."
Rep. Joe Courtney, D-Vernon also spoke.
The audience at the memorial service included former Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. Lieberman convened the congressional vigil in the Senate's majestic Kennedy Caucus Room that has served as the stage for Senate investigations of such tragedies as the sinking of the Titanic (1912), the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor and the Vietnam War.
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