LIVINGSTON — A solemn candlelight vigil Friday night on Main Street served as a means to honor and remember the victims of a recent shooting in Newtown, Conn., that left 20 children and six adults dead at an elementary school.
About 100 people attended the vigil and several local leaders spoke to the crowd. Many huddled in hooded coats and scarves as temperatures dipped into the 40s.
The event was arranged by both Sikh temples in Livingston.
Jyotti Pannu, an organizer, said because the community came together in a similar way after an August shooting at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin where a man killed six people and wounded four others, she wanted to extend that same consideration again.
"I know it's far away and I know maybe the people in Connecticut don't even know we're organizing this vigil, but I feel like it's an important message to the rest of the community that we need to speak about the issue, speak about the shootings that happened and how we can address those shootings," Pannu said.
Speakers at the event stressed the importance of mental health, community awareness and communication to prevent future tragedies.
Pannu's father, Harbhajan Pannu, also helped organize the event and said although the shooting happened far away, it's an issue that goes beyond state boundaries because similar horrors can pop up anywhere.
"We need to get together and take action in defense of our communities and schools," Harbhajan Pannu said.
Harbhajan Pannu and his daughter said taking action is as simple as paying attention to others and speaking out if someone's behavior seems odd.
"I think a lot of it is mental health," Jyotti Pannu said. "Going through mental health crisis (training) and how to approach it."
Happy Bains, the president of the Livingston Sports Club who helped organize an August vigil for the victims of the Wisconsin shooting, was at Friday's event to show respect for those who were killed earlier this month.
"We are one," Bains said. "We care for everybody as one. We feel for them."
Livingston Councilman Jim Soria, a retired police officer, said as a parent he feels the pain and sorrow from the loss of so many innocent children and adults -- some of whom sacrificed their lives while attempting to save students.
"This could happen anywhere," he said. "We have to make sure we protect our kids and families as much as possible."
Organizers at the event collected donations and handwritten messages from those in attendance. They'll be shipped to the families of the victims in Connecticut.
Reporter Mike North can be reached at (209) 385-2453 or email@example.com.