‘Wear Orange’ rally raises awareness about gun violence
FAIRFIELD — It’s hard to hear Newtown resident Jordan Gomes, now 15, tell the story of being locked down in the gymnasium at Sandy Hook Elementary School, hearing the gunfire and shouts throughout the building, without giving pause.
Jordan was one of several survivors of gun violence who spoke Sunday afternoon at a “Wear Orange” rally on Sherman Green hosted by Moms Demand Action, in tandem with Friday’s National Gun Violence Awareness Day.
“Wear Orange” began in 2015 to honor 15-year-old Chicago student Hadiya Pendleton, who was shot and killed in January, 2013, a week after performing at President Barack Obama’s second inauguration.
“The symbolism of wearing orange is to raise awareness of gun violence, to promote gun safety, and to honor survivors of gun violence,” explained Lori Charlton, co-chair of the Fairfield-Westport group, noting it was the second year in a row MDA had held the event.
Close to 200 people attended, including U.S. Rep. Jim Himes and First Selectman Michael Tetreau, who read a proclamation declaring Sunday “Wear Orange Day” in Fairfield.
“It’s great to see our community come together for a common cause, about something that we can and should end,” he said.
He noted his shock to learn that as many Americans were killed by guns between Jan. 1 and March 6 of this year, as were killed at D-Day in Normandy, France, June 6, 1944.
“We need more action, we need more awareness, and we need more education,” he said. “We’ve got to get everyone on the side of ending gun violence.”
“As a survivor of gun violence, I’m very inspired by days like today,” said Tara Gottlieb, whose parents — Kim and Tim Donnelly, were gunned down in their Post Road jewelry store in Fairfield in 2005.
Her brother, songwriter Eric Donnelly, and friend Tim Warren of the group The Alternate Route, performed an emotional song about the murder and gun violence entitled “Somewhere in America.”
Saying that she’s a survivor of the Newtown tragedy “never really gets easier,” Jordan noted.
Still, she said, “I’ve sort of made it my purpose, my job, to combat gun violence and bring forth issues that people don’t usually talk about.”
“It’s obviously not fun to do,” she said, “but it’s something that I felt I needed to do.”
Following her details of her experience, Jordan told the crowd poignantly, “If you don’t know anyone who has lived through a mass shooting, give it time. You will.”
Himes also gave a passionate speech about the issue, noting frustration with some of the indifference expressed on the part of too many people in Washington, D.C.
“No other country has this problem,” he said in frustration, but emphasized the importance of focusing on the positive.
“Even though I am a little embarrassed by some of the institutions I work with, my message is we are making progress,” he said.
“Don’t get discouraged,” Himes said. “I understand how one might. I feel it myself … but we need to sustain the fight.”
“The things we want come through pain and struggle … The things you’re doing are making a difference and we will win this fight.”