Lighting the night sky

Photo: Residents of the Foxmoor Subdivision in Montgomery held a sky lantern memorial on Dec. 22 for the 26 Sandy Hook Elementary victims. The laterns filled the night sky.
Courtesy Photo

Montgomery neighborhood lights lanterns for Newtown victims
by Mary Parrilli
MONTGOMERY—Just a few days prior to Christmas, a neighborhood in Montgomery held a memorial for the 26 victims who lost their lives in the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting that occurred on Dec. 14.

Foxmoor subdivision residents yearning for action and unity decided to get together on the evening of Dec. 22 at the neighborhood pond. Laura Blickem Hensley, a stay-at-home mom and resident of the subdivision, organized the event.

Hensley used the subdivision’s Facebook page to harmonize a lantern-lighting tribute for those lost in the tragedy. It was something she wanted to do herself, and once she found the lanterns, she thought she would extend an invite to others in her community.

“I thought, the more the merrier,” Hensley said.

Susan Buerke, a Foxmoor resident who participated in the event, said that 20-to-25 people came out to take part. The group lit a total of 26 lanterns, one for each victim.

Buerke is an accountant and a mother of three. She said that people of all ages showed up that night. Children, adults and even some of the elder neighbors came to light sky lanterns—paper lanterns that, when lit, fill with hot air and rise up into the sky.

“It was a very moving and emotional sight to see. They looked like stars against the night sky,” Buerke said.

Lack of lighters prevented the lanterns from being lit at the same time. As a result, the lanterns ascended at different times, which actually provided depth to the starry sight.

“We saw a beautiful trail of lanterns. They were peaceful and quite graceful as they ascended,” Hensley said. “I felt an emotional attachment to each one of them.”

Susan’s daughter Morgan, a Kaneland High School junior, said her parents had been keeping her updated with the events and information regarding the Sandy Hook tragedy. When Morgan heard that one of her neighbors was organizing a lighting tribute, she felt compelled to take part.

“I really just felt like I needed to do something about it. I wanted to feel like I had some power, or like I could show the world that this tragedy had a powerful impact,” Morgan said.

Hensley said that she wanted the lanterns to symbolize prayer, light and hope to Connecticut. She wants the families to know that they’re not alone.

Hensley has two children: a 9-month old and a son in kindergarten. She said that the tragedy really struck a chord with her and made her realize that tragedies like Sandy Hook can happen anywhere.

As the lanterns rose up into the night sky, the Buerkes thought of each and every one of the innocent lives that were taken away on that day, Dec. 14.

“I felt like I was letting go of souls,” Morgan said.

Morgan said she felt sadness, but also felt a small, inexplicable sense of comfort, knowing that she had taken action into her own hands.

Susan said that, after the lanterns had gone, she felt a sense of unity with her neighbors and with all of those suffering from the tragedy. She said that it felt good to share her sorrow with others.

“It was an instance of honesty and true emotion for us. A chance to reach out to our community and console one another in our emotional states,” Susan said

“You know, Connecticut is so far away, but you still want to do something. Maybe the families in Connecticut won’t know that I did this, but I believe in the power of prayer,” Hensley said.

On a local level, it was a chance for action, and for members of the community to come together and express sorrow with one another. Members of the Foxmoor subdivision experienced togetherness and a sense of welcoming from one another.

On a national level, each Foxmoor attendee that Saturday night was able to take part in a symbol of hope and healing for the families who lost loved ones in Connecticut.

“I just hope that those affected will find peace. I cannot imagine what those parents are going through, or how they’ll learn to live without their children,” Hensley said. “All I can say is, I hope they take it one day at a time.”

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