Candles dotted the steps of Charlotte police headquarters in Uptown Monday night, lit to honor the 26 people - including 20 children - brutally murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. on Friday.
About 50 people attended the vigil, organized by the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department Homicide Support Group, a volunteer organization for survivors of homicide victims. While Duke Energy Center glowed green and white - Sandy Hook's school colors - a few blocks away, volunteers handed out ribbons of the same color to show solidarity with the family and friends of those who died. Children in the crowd were given stuffed animals to comfort them, and Christmas tree ornaments in the shape of stars were handed out as volunteers urged people to put them on their trees at home so that they would think of the victims throughout the holidays.
Robbie Harrison, a volunteer with the support group, was watching coverage of the tragedy on Friday when she texted Sergeant Ricky Robbins, leader of the CMPD Homicide Support Group, with the idea of how the department could reach out to Newtown victims. Harrison lost her son to a homicide in Charlotte 24 years ago and now volunteers for the group.
"We had to do something," Harrison said. "We can't sit around and watch this without doing something to help."
Harrison seemed disappointed with the small turnout after the vigil ended.
"People just think that other things are more important," she said.
But after thinking about her comment for a bit, she seemed more optimistic. "I am pleased that the people who came took the time out to show up," Harrison said. "For the short amount of time we had to get the word out, we did alright. For that I am thankful."
Harrison addressed the crowd, urging them to hug their children every day. Robbins also spoke as attendeees struggled to keep their candles lit in the cold, breezy night. In front of the speaking podium were 27 luminary candle bags, each showing a picture of one of the victim's as well as their name.
"The members of the Charlotte Homicide Support Group, who have all lost family members to homicide, wanted to reach out to let the families know in Connecticut that they know what they are going through," said Robbins. "If there's anything we can do here in Charlotte to help any individual here or in Connecticut, we open our arms to them."