Nearly 100 parents and children sang and prayed in Sunnyside, Queens Tuesday in remembrance of Newtown shooting victims Benjamin Wheeler, 7, and Dawn Hochsprung, 47, who both had local connections.
Benjamin was born in Sunnyside and his parents made lifelong friends there before they moved to Newtown for a simpler life when he was still a baby.
"Just like we had dreams and plans for our kids, Francine and David had dreams and plans for Benny," said one woman who spoke at the gathering. "Our hearts are heavy with unbearable grief."
Hero principal Dawn Hochsprung's stepsister lives in Sunnyside and is still trying to process what has happened.
"She's such a hero, and she went out fighting," said Nicole Perkins Isleib.
"It has been easier knowing that there were so many heroes involved that saved so many lives, including my stepsister," said Isleib. "It really has made it easier."
Ben's mother, Francine, wrote a letter of thanks to the many mothers in Sunnyside who reached out this week when she was most heartbroken.
The letter read in part, "In the days ahead, when our community comes together to heal from this tragic event, please think of Ben with a smile as you go on with your daily lives."
"We hope he will be with you in your hearts as he continues to live in ours," it said.