Artist Completes Painting in Memory of Those Killed in Newtown
Sandy Hook Elementary students are returning to school for the first time since the deadly shooting spree on December 14th. Class resumes Thursday.
A school in the neighboring town of Monroe has been converted for the students' use. The temporary building is being redubbed Sandy Hook Elementary with increased security measures.
The Newtown elementary school remains a crime scene as police investigate the shooting rampage that killed 26 people; 20 of them children.
The tragedy has inspired many people. One local artist wants to use her talents to honor those killed.
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An artist and mother, Nereida Vazquez, says she can only describe this experience as a calling. And after more than 100 hours of work, she is now looking for a way to present the six-foot tribute painting to the Newtown community.
"It was the day I saw the President reading off the names of all the children and it just hit me."
Vazquez has completed numerous portraits as a local artist, but this one broke the mold.
“I just felt like it was God telling me to memorialize each one of them... together."
Nereida spent the next few days on autopilot.
"I went up to World Wide News, grabbed every paper that was out, went on the internet, read the obituaries."
With 26 pictures of first grade students and their teachers laid out before her, she placed them in her Bible and asked each victim for inspiration.
"I would say okay Jessica, I need you for a little bit."
After a lot of tears and sleepless nights... it was finally complete.
"It was important to me that they all be smiling."
Each person was strategically placed amidst angel wings, like Dylan Hockley and special ed teacher Ann Marie Murphy.
"All the reports said when they found him, she was holding him in her arms, and the family said how he really loved his teacher."
They are faces she now knows by name, and feels she shares a special connection.
“I think of Caroline who I heard she has family in Rochester, Charlotte… that's my mom's name. I just see something special."
She says it's a small tribute to the young lives tragically lost.
“I just want to believe that they're together and where they are there's no pain. People have to know there is something bright after this."