WASHINGTON - Families gathered on the grounds of the Washington Monument to hold hands and sing on Christmas Eve Monday. They sang "Frosty the Snowman" and "Jingle Bells" -- but the gathering wasn't about the Christmas carols. It was about community, and healing.
Kristin O'Keefe, a mom from Kensington, Md., organized the gathering.
"I wanted to lift our voices in song for the families of Newtown, but also for all kids," she said.
The message was simple, "To say that we're stronger as Americans when we come together, and that's what this is about."
Nearly 100 people came, young and old, families and strangers. O'Keefe dubbed the event "Circle Up for Kids," and encouraged people to hold hands as they sang. And if it sounds a bit like the scene of Whos in Whoville in "The Grinch Who Stole Chirstmas," O'Keefe says, that's intentional.
That segment of the classic Christmas special, where the Whos don't let the missing trappings of Christmas spoil their joy, inspired O'Keefe.
"It was a moment of hope and resilience. And that is what we wanted to show: That as Americans were are resilient, we are hopeful and we can make change happen."
Watch video from the event:
O'Keefe says the event wasn't intended to be a political statement, but an opportunity to bring people together. Though, she says she's not in favor of putting armed guards in elementary schools and does think a ban on assault weapons is part of the solution to dealing with gun violence. She said her own school-aged children had one nagging question about the shootings in Newtown: Why?
"And it's hard to answer that. But I think what I can tell them is that we can make change happen. And we are hopeful about that."
Sara Durbin, who came to the event with her friend Lauren Emery, said it was important to her to come to send a message to the residents of Newtown "that we are all there for them, and that we are listening."
Emery said she has lots of friends in Connecticut, "So that hit me really hard," she said.
She wants to see more understanding of mental illness.
"We need to start realizing it's not a flaw in character, it's a flaw in chemistry, and we need to get that in our heads."
Flurries started as the group sang "Amazing Grace" and "We are the World" and someone passed out bubbles for the children. As bubbles mixed with the snowflakes, O'Keefe said she was gratified by the number of people who came out.
"It's just such a coming together, it feels beautiful."
WTOP's Kate Ryan contributed to this report.
(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)
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