This week the Newtown Foundation and survivors of gun violence from across the country will gather at the National Cathedral in Washington to remember the tens of thousands of victims of gun violence.
The foundation started after 20 children and six educators perished at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown a year ago. But according to David Ackert, president of the Newtown Foundation, this week will be about the victims of gun violence from across the country.
“It’s really not about Newtown. It’s about the 30,000 deaths,” Ackert said in a phone interview.
Thirty thousand is roughly the number of people who die as a result of gun violence every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control. About 60 percent of those are related to suicide, which is underreported. Slate magazine has accounted for about 11,338 of the gun deaths in the U.S. since Newtown through its unofficial tally.
Ackert said the epidemic is nationwide and that’s why the group chose the National Cathedral for Thursday’s ceremony. He said the venue gives them an opportunity to bring together people from all over the country.
“We hope to inspire a movement to make sure none of the 30,000 victims died in vain,” Ackert said.
Part of that movement has involved a trip to Washington every three months by the Newtown Action Alliance to lobby for stricter gun control measures.
“We’re committed to the long-term change that is needed,” Ackert said.
He said it’s amazing how many people you can meet who have been touched by gun violence. Empowering these people to share their stories is rewarding, Ackert said, adding that no one in the group is a professional lobbyist, and no one could have imagined themselves in the situation they are in. But he said they find the strength to tell their stories.
However, this week’s event is not an attempt to politicize the issue, Ackert said.
In addition to trying to move the remembrance ceremony away from Newtown to give the community the room it needs to heal, the foundation also is asking people to honor the victims by participating in a few acts of kindness in their own community.
Ackert and a group from Newtown will join Connecticut’s congressional delegation in Washington on Wednesday to participate in acts of kindness by lending a hand at local shelters and food banks.
U.S. Rep. Elizabeth Esty and U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal are expected to officially launch the “Acts of Kindness” campaign today at 10 a.m. at the New Britain YMCA.
The ceremony at the National Cathedral will be held at 3:45 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 12. For those who can’t attend, the ceremony will be streamed live on the Internet.
The National Cathedral holds 1,000 people and the foundation is asking those who want to attend to reserve a seat at rally.org/vigil.
While the ticket is free, the Newtown Foundation still needs help raising money to help pay the travel expenses of the families of gun victims who want to make the trip to Washington for Thursday’s ceremony.
As of Sunday evening, the group had raised about $4,200 from 88 individuals. Its goal is $26,000. There are two buses from Newtown attending the event. There also are groups from Oakland, Calif., and Chicago planning to attend. The Newtown Action Alliance also is looking to raise money to help pay for travel expenses and meals with donations, holiday cards, and an “I Am Newtown” necklace.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, who is not expected to attend the ceremony at the National Cathedral, renewed his called Sunday — in an editorial offered to all the state’s newspapers— for houses of worship to ring their bells 26 times at 9:30 a.m. on Dec. 14. He also asked people who want to participate to donate to a local charity or to volunteer their time in service to their community.