ALPENA - Ashley Young was so moved by the events that unfolded in Newtown, Conn., on Friday that she has made it her mission to be sure the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting are recognized and remembered in Alpena.
Tonight a special candle-lighting ceremony will take place at the pavilion at Starlite Beach where Mayor Matt Waligora will briefly speak about the tragedy and the importance of children. Everyone in attendance will have a candle lit during the event, which will be capped off with the lighting of 26 lanterns - one for each victim - that will be released into the air over Thunder Bay.
Young said when she found out about the shooting and the news about how many of the dead were young children, she wanted to do something to honor them and to bring the Alpena community together for it.
"I think it is important for us to all stand together in this time of crisis because it could have just as easily been our children that could have been affected," Young said. "We need to support Newtown because I think they would have supported us if it happened here."
Newtown Youth & Family Services, a nonprofit organization, has taken the lead in helping to counsel the survivors and the families of the lost. Young said because the organization is a nonprofit, donations will be taken at tonight's event and will be sent to help with the cost of helping the residents of Newtown.
Young said she hopes there will be a large turnout for the candle-lighting event and she has 150 candles available for those who take part. She said people are welcome to bring their own candles. Young said like most others, the news of the school shooting rattled her. She said now is the time for the country to come together and the debate over gun control needs to be done tactfully while people continue to heal from the tragedy.
"I think we were all pretty shaken and shocked," Young said. "I know a lot of it is being made into politics now and it shouldn't be. Right now the focus needs to be on the victims and the families instead of politics. The politics really need to be a secondary issue. Right now I just think it is important for everyone to come together to help those who need it, because I think we would want the help if it were us."
Young said she encourages people to arrive at 7 p.m. and they will light anSteve Schulwitz can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5689.d launch the 26 lanterns at 8 p.m.