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BUBBLES OF HOPE

27-minute walk honors young victims, teachers

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BUBBLES OF HOPE

Video from a 27-minute walk to honor the young victims, teachers of the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting.

hromero/


POSTED December 22, 2012 1:18 a.m.

They were everywhere.

Bubbles. Lots and lots and lots of bubbles.

It was the sort of scene – save for the early morning hour and the biting cold – that somebody like 7-year-old Chase Kowalski would have loved to have been a part of.

Where else are you going to see dozens of adults all grouped together blowing bubbles before the sun comes up? And when will you get another chance to take part in something so magical, so full of whimsy and caprice and youthful energy?

Benjamin Wheeler – at 6-years-old – would have definitely approved.

But Kowalski will never get to blow bubbles again. Wheeler won’t get that opportunity to see such a large group of adults acting like children.

That’s because on the morning of Dec. 14, they were both gunned down – along with 18 of their peers, all under the age of 7 – at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut.

There was no rhyme or reason. We’ll probably never know what was going through Adam Lanza’s head as he methodically moved through the halls of the sleepy elementary school and murdered 26 people in cold blood.

What is painstakingly evident about this tragedy, however – the factor that sets it apart from the Aurora theater shootings and the Clackamas Town Center killings and even the Wisconsin Sikh temple massacre – is the fact that it truly transcends barriers like class and location and even political affiliation.

So when 50 people huddled together Friday morning in the parking lot of Bedquarters at Yosemite and Main, a full 20 minutes before the sun started to peek up over the horizon, to pay tribute to those who so violently lost their lives, it wasn’t just another community trying to establish a link.

This wasn’t reaching out and trying to grab onto the raft.

All you had to do to see that was look into the eyes of Dawn Rebeiro – past the tears and past the early morning wariness and into that pain that channeled crystal-clear wholeheartedness. That look that screams concern for not only the fallen but those left behind who have to make an attempt to pick up the pieces and move on.

And for 27 minutes Rebeiro led the gathered as they walked the streets of Downtown Manteca to pay tribute.

The atmosphere wasn’t overwhelmingly emotional, but a sense of sadness hung like the early morning dew – regardless of the handshakes and the backslaps and the jokes everybody knew why they were there. Maybe – just maybe – a sense of normalcy could take away that dread that comes with knowing that something like this can happen anywhere.

Anybody that has lived in San Joaquin County long enough remembers Patrick Purdy and the Cleveland School Shooting in Stockton on Jan. 17, 1989 and how such a senseless act of violence shocked the entire nation.

That was right in our backyard.

While the gun control debate will rage on in the coming months, politics weren’t even a thought for people like Birinder Singh of Manteca’s Sikh Temple who came out as a sign of community solidarity.

It was just a few months ago that people of his faith were praying when a gunman walked into their Wisconsin place of worship and started firing. He killed six people and wounded four others before taking his own life.

Having a mass murder hit close to home is something that he’s intimately familiar with.

And that takes us to the bubbles.

After a nearly 1-mile trek through downtown, the four-dozen in attendance broke out their bottles and sent up well wishes to those in heaven that tragically never got the chance to reach double digits; never earned a drivers license; never got the chance to go to the prom and never got the opportunity to get married and start a family of their own.

There was a bubble for 7-year-old Grace McDonnell – who loved her brother and the beach and harbored ambitions of being a painter.

There was a bubble for 6-year-old Dylan Hockley – who had just moved to Newtown from England two years ago because his parents enjoyed the quaint feel of the community and the quality of the schools.

There was a bubble for 52-year-old Anne Marie Murphy – hailed as a hero by those who found her body covering several of the victims in an attempt to shield them from the bullets.

 Some people sang a verse from Amazing Grace. Others just watched the bubbles as they disappeared into the air. One man twirled with his wand extended to try to use the wind as his well-wishing tool. Everyone’s technique was different.

But as Rebeiro handed out hugs and as the crowd dispersed – without any more bubbles floating away – the true nature of the gathering came into sharp focus.

This was one community coming together to support another that they’ve never been to. It was people making a selfless gesture to let people that they’ve never met know that they were standing with them as they faced the wreckage of evil.

Those parents might not ever know that the bubbles existed. But the people who need to know will.

So if you see a bubble floating by your car as you’re at a stoplight, or coasting towards your window while you’re at your desk, don’t fret.

It’s just a sign from heaven – letting us know that they got there.

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