At one point, there were 26 people gathered this morning on the sidewalk in front of Spokane’s Cathedral of Our Lady of Lourdes, one week after the Newtown, Conn., massacre that left 26 people dead.
But not for long.
That number soon doubled, then tripled. By the time Bishop Blase Cupich appeared, about 150 people were standing in the rain on Riverside Avenue, their heads bowed in prayer.
Perhaps they were looking for some solidarity, the Rev. Darrin Connall said.
“People feel powerless,” Connall said after the ceremony, “and out of that sense of powerlessness, people want to come together.”
Twenty-six bells rang out at 9:30 a.m., corresponding with the time that gunman Adam Lanza entered Sandy Hook Elementary School and opened fire. Bells tolled across the nation all morning, each marking the life of the victims.
Twenty-six victims. When the somber song of the church bells ended, parishioner Carlotta Lavagetto took the podium.
“Grace, Anne Marie, Emilie, Jack, Noah,” Lavagetto read, calling out the names of the dead. There was no introduction to the 20 children and six adults murdered last week. No introduction was needed.
“Their tragedy was so horrific,” she said after the ceremony. “For everybody it’s hard to believe that this can happen.”
It wasn’t until the 26 bells had rung and the 26 names had been read that Bishop Cupich took his place at the podium, praying for the victims and also, the shooter. Lanza also took his own life.
“We ask you in your goodness to give eternal light and peace to all who died, innocent children barely out of infancy, heroic teachers and even the misguided gunman who brought this tragedy on our nation,” he said.
Sniffles could be heard from the crowd. A baby cried out. The sounds of traffic rumbled in the distance. And the bishop continued, speaking to a crowd of bowed heads, perhaps looking for answers, perhaps looking for comfort, perhaps, as Connall said, just seeking some solidarity in the wake of last week’s tragedy.
“We beg you in your compassion to heal the pain of grieving parents and families and all who loved those lost in this moment of heartbreak,” Cupich said. “Give them strength to continue their lives with courage and hope. Our hearts are one with theirs as our prayer embraces their pain and suffering.”