Six months ago today, 20 elementary school students and six educators were killed in a shooting at an elementary school in the close-knit Sandy Hook community in Newtown, Conn.
Victims’ families and community members paused for a moment of silence just after 9:30 a.m. then spoke of remembrance and change.
"We know all of the sudden these kids where learning in their classroom and their lives were taken within minutes," said Jillian Soto, the sister of Newtown shooting victim Victoria Soto. "I wish that I can be half the woman that she was because she was amazing."
Victoria’s sister Carlee Soto said they are not forgetting loved ones and don't want anyone else to either.
Throughout the day, the names of more than 6,000 people killed by a firearm in the United States since the tragedy at Sandy Hook will be read outside of town hall in Newtown.
Gilles Rousseau, the father of Lauren Rousseau, said the remembrance was more emotional than he thought it was going to be.
“Driving here today, I almost turned around, but I did not. I came,” he said. “It’s very emotional and I am glad I am here for Lauren and the 25 other victims.”
Between the reading of the names, some are renewing calls to pass legislation expanding background checks for gun purchases, including Gilles Rousseau, who called upon Congress to pass stricter gun control legislation.
Steven Barton, a Southbury resident who was shot in the movie theater shooting in Aurora, Colo., was among those speaking at the ceremony.
"Newtown has seen unspeakable tragedy, but just looking out on you, it's clear that you're stronger than ever before," Barton said.
In addition to the ceremony, Mayors Against Illegal Guns will launch a multi-state tour from Newtown on Friday called No More Names: National Drive to Reduce Gun Violence.
The tour will stop in 25 states over 100 days to rally for similar gun violence prevention efforts to representatives in Washington.
"Since Newtown, 5,000 people have been murdered with guns. Just that alone is disgusting and we want Congress to realize that this I a huge problem that needs to be addressed," Carlee Soto said.
U.S. Rep. Elizabeth Esty released a statement on Friday, saying her thoughts are with the Newtown families.
“As we mourn the 26 innocent lives lost on that darkest of days, we also celebrate the strength, courage, and resilience of the Newtown community. These families and this town, who have been through so much, have inspired the country,” Esty said. “The country is inspired by the mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters who, through immeasurable tragedy and adversity, have never given up their mission to save other families and other communities from experiencing the same loss. The country is inspired by a small town with tremendous courage – a community that has stepped up to advocate for gun violence prevention.”
The remembrance event will continue until 9:30 p.m.
Tonight, the Newtown Interfaith Clergy Association will hold a community-wide gathering for healing and hope building at 7:30 p.m. at the Fairfield Hills soccer fields off Trades Lane, according to the Newtown Bee.