As the nation mourns with Newtown, Conn., Santa Barbarans held a vigil outside City Hall on Saturday afternoon.
The 20 first-graders and six adults killed by a gunman at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Friday have been identified and more details about the massacre are emerging.
Adam Lanza, 20, apparently shot and killed his mother with her own guns at their home before going to the elementary school, where he opened fire on two classrooms of students and staff members, according to news reports. Lanza then killed himself.
“It’s a tragedy beyond all words,” said Toni Wellen, chairwoman of the local Coalition Against Gun Violence.
“We are tired of sympathy and prayers; we want action.”
Wellen led the group in a candlelight vigil and moment of silence before she read out the names of Friday’s victims, which were released by authorities earlier Saturday.
Many of the children were born in 2006, she said.
One of the best ways to heal is to be together, said Jina Carvalho, with the Santa Barbara Response Network and the Glendon Association.
Counselors are available locally free of charge for anyone who needs help or psychological first aid, said Carvalho, who added that the Glendon Association is also reaching out to local schools.
“I just want to tell you all that you’re not alone,” she said.
One woman, who just gave her name as Allie, said she grew up in Newtown and is flying home Sunday to be with her family. Wiping away tears, she thanked everyone for their support of her hometown.
Monique Límon, president of the Santa Barbara Unified School District Board of Trustees, said the safety of students is paramount for the district, and everything else comes second.
Everyone should remember the teachers who helped save so many children, she added.
Superintendent Dave Cash sent a letter to parents Friday reminding them of the district’s safety and emergency protocols.
“Certainly in this day and age we can never be absolutely protected against all circumstances, but we do train our staff and rely on our parents to helps us ensure we enforce our own procedures,” Cash wrote. “We also conduct safety drills and debriefings with local first responders regularly.”
Santa Barbara Mayor Helene Schneider said the community is standing in support of Newtown.
“The city of Santa Barbara is thinking of everyone there in Newtown,” she said.
With Santa Barbara’s flag at half-staff in the background, many at the vigil expressed their deep sorrow and even anger.
“We need to make sure that we demand change,” one woman said.
“We have to pledge that this is the last time we’re gathered like this,” said state Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, who called for stricter gun-control laws.