Three buses left the Redding Community Center at 9 a.m. with more than 125 Reddingites ready to join more than 5,000 Connecticut residents in the March for Change in Hartford on Thursday, Feb. 14, in support of commonsense gun laws.
Susanne Krivit, a Redding resident, said she was “very impressed” with how well the event was organized.
When arriving in Hartford on the sunny February day, Ms. Krivit said, she noticed the crowd was mostly suburban women, “but there were enough students and men in attendance so that it didn’t look like a huge PTA [parent teacher association] meeting.”
“Everyone was very polite and we mostly stood waving signs, listening to the speakers, although there were frequent waves of brief chants mostly encouraging elected officials toward action,” she said. “The most moving moments were when Veronique Pozner and Jillian Soto spoke to the crowd. Many of us were visibly moved and we were wiping away tears listening to them.”
Veronique Pozner is the mother of Noah Pozner, 6, who was killed during the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown on Dec. 14. Jillian Soto is the sister of Victoria Soto, a teacher who was killed protecting her students.
The shootings took the lives of 20 students and six teachers and were the catalyst for this March for Change.
Ms. Krivit said state Rep. Dan Carter (R-2nd District) was in attendance and came into the crowd to mingle with groups of people from his towns.
“Many of us spoke to him, encouraging him to vote for change. That is why we were there,” said Ms. Krivit.
Lestina Trainor, an organizer for the event, said rounding the corner to the Capitol steps and seeing the vast amount of people already gathered was “overwhelming.”
“Many children crowded to the stage with their signs and remained there — flanking the speakers— for the duration of the rally. News cameramen and women created a tightly packed arc in front of the podium and the crowds of marchers piled in behind them in all directions. Some people opted for better views from the tops of a gigantic snow pile,” said Ms. Trainor.
Speakers included Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, Attorney General George Jepsen, Mayor Bill Finch of Bridgeport, Ms. Pozner, Ms. Soto, Henrietta Beckman of Mothers United Against Violence, whose son was shot and killed 10 years ago, Robert Thompson, whose 14-year-old son was shot and killed in Bridgeport in 2012 while walking home from a sweet 16 party, Ron Pinciaro of Connecticut Against Gun Violence, and Colin Goddard, a Virginia Tech shooting survivor and Brady Campaign activist, said Ms. Trainor.
“The crowd was responsive and fired up, at times chanting ‘Now! Now! Now!’ indicating that changes in gun laws are long overdue and must be reformed immediately,” she said.
Ms. Trainor also noted that gun rights activists, “who dominated the hearings in Hartford” that Ms. Trainor attended weeks before the rally, were absent on Feb. 14.
Kathleen Heller, a Redding resident, brought her five daughters to Hartford to march for change.
Marielle, Gwenyth, Aleena, Leigha, and Juliette, all born in China and adopted by Ms. Heller and her husband, went to the rally to celebrate America “in the most exciting way — freedom of choice,” said Ms. Heller.
“Being a baby boomer, having marched against the Vietnam War and the draft, I was very keen for them to have this experience,” she said.
Ms. Heller wanted to show her girls that as Americans they have the ability to make changes with laws and are able to be heard, she said.
Each of the girls, who range in age from 18 to 12, wrote a response to their day in Hartford.
“When we arrived in Hartford, I felt everyone’s excitement, but I felt very, very anxious. This is because it was the very first time I had participated in such an event, and I felt very, very small,” Leigha, 12, wrote. “As time went on, the atmosphere fluctuated, growing, and moving in response to what the speakers were saying. I felt as though I was a part of something much larger than myself, and that I was helping to make a difference.”
Gwenyth, 16, celebrated her third year in the United States on Feb. 14. Her response showed her thoughts on the Second Amendment.
“I would imagine how important this law meant for families and people in the 18th Century. However, in today’s society, people use this law as a protection to violate other’s rights. That’s unacceptable [for] how much this law had broken people’s hearts and threatens our society,” she wrote.
Juliette, 12, said, “I agree that putting stricter laws on guns is a good idea. I think this because there are many deaths caused by gun violence every year. Another reason I agree with this is because families like mine are affected by gun violence.”
Marielle, 18, said, “I felt even more important as a citizen to get involved and become ‘the majority that speaks of common sense.’ In that group where I stood for more than three hours to protest and shout for my opinion, I felt proud that I could make a change.”
Aleena, 14, attends the American School for the Deaf and also celebrated her third year in the United States on Feb. 14.
A photograph taken by an Associated Press photographer has been circulating around the Internet of Aleena holding a sign that says “Honor Newtown” in front of her face, revealing only her eyes.
“I want to make sure that young people grow and are healthy and become old without the fear of guns,” Aleena wrote in her response.
Ms. Heller thought that her daughters would be bored at the event.
“Not one was bored for one second, they were just loving it. They were clapping during speeches, even before everyone else [started] clapping,” said Ms. Heller.
Vanessa Alward, a Reddingite, said the March for Change event was “all positive, no negative vibes.”
“It was invigorating and wonderful and hopeful,” she said.
Each person who rode the bus was given a green hat, said Ms. Alward.
“People were pumped up and ready. There was a sea of green hats against the white snow on the lawn,” she said.
When Gov. Malloy spoke, Ms. Alward said, it was as if he were calling legislators to act and bring forth the change in the laws.
Hearing the speeches of survivors and family members of victims, Ms. Alward said, was “heart wrenching,” but by being at the event, she said “it felt good to be a part of a positive change.”