Parents, children and other community members quietly gathered at the Heartworks office off Route 202 in Basking Ridge, near the Bernardsville border, for a candlelight vigil on Wednesday night with the intent of sending both written and spoken prayers to the victims of last Friday's shooting inside an elementary school in Newtown, Conn.
And quietly, they lit candles for an outdoors vigil on a cold, windy night, to listen to "Amazing Grace," the reading of a poem, "Kindness," and words about the loss of children and educators in an overwhelming tragedy that others can do "nothing to fix."
"Maybe the people of Newtown don't know we are on this lawn, but maybe our prayers, will reach them," Megan McDowell of Bernardsville, Heartworks' founder, told the gathered group.
"I think sometimes all you can do is to help someone feel less alone," McDowell said before the vigil began, a theme she repeated during her brief comments outdoors.
McDowell, who founded Heartworks as an "Acts of Kindness" group following the Sept. 11, 2001 death at the World Trade Center of her brother-in-law, John Farrell of Basking Ridge, said, "I know what it's like to be lost in grief and to have complete strangers reach out to you."
Meghan Glynn, also from Bernardsville, sang "Amazing Grace" and "Be Not Afraid" during the vigil. Kelly Ketterson of Tewksbury, on the Advisory Board for Heartworks, read the names of those who lost their lives.
Along with adults, those in the crowd included teens, older children and some as young as the six and seven year-olds slain in their schoolrooms in Connecticut.
Before the vigil, the children and adults signed a "Hand in Hand" poster with the outlines of handprints and messages of hope and support.
"I think it's important to remember the victims," said Kaitlin Farrell, 22, of Basking Ridge, who said she is McDowell's niece. She added she feels it is good for children to get together for an event such as the vigil.
"Prayers can make a difference," said Kim Taylor of Basking Ridge. Both she and Karen Tannenbaum of Basking Ridge said they had brought their children to the vigil.
"I think we all needed to be together to commiserate," Tannenbaum said. She also said those who attended wanted to be able to do what they could to send "good energy" to those in Newtown.
McDowell said she doesn't know exactly where the poster will be placed, but she hopes to get it as close as possible to the closed Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown. She added she has an in-law from that town.
McDowell emphasized that Heartworks is not a church group, but a non-profit "acts of kindness" group.
Those involved in Heartworks have undertaken many other projects during the holiday season, she said, including providing funding for gifts for some families who had been devastated by the Sandy storm in late October; delivering a Christmas tree to a family where the mother was too ill to get one herself; and sending prayer wreaths to families with the recent loss of a loved one.
But McDowell emphasized several times that Heartworks is not a charity. She said the group is more concerned about being kind to those who have been affected by unexpected life circumstances, be they natural disasters or the loss of loved ones.
She added that everyone is in need of such acts of kindness at some time or another.