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Candlelight vigil affirms common values

By Patricia Robert

Maeve Van Engen, Carolina Javier, Eric Javier and Isabella Rivera attend the vigil.


DOBBS FERRY — “Compassion.” “Respect.” “Civility.” “Inclusivity.” “Resiliency.” “Kindness.” “A sense of humor.”

These were some of the words called out when Daniel Martin, the facilitator at last weekend’s “Be the Light” vigil, asked the crowd what they want to see more of in their community and in their country.

Well over 100 people, from toddlers to seniors, gathered at Waterfront Park on the chilly afternoon of Sunday, Nov. 27, for the event, which was organized by four young mothers as a way for the community to share its common values.

The organizers — Melissa Curtin, Maria Nigro, Purim Choi, and Becky Pitts — are all residents of Dobbs Ferry. They are in their mid-30s to early 40s, have children who attend Community Nursery School in Dobbs Ferry, and have formed an informal “mom’s group” through play dates and such.

“While the idea of the candlelight vigil started out as being a reaction to the harsh discourse of the recent political campaign, we didn’t view it as being a political event,” Nigro said. “As moms, we want to teach our children to be good people, and in my family that means respecting others regardless of their differences. The event was an opportunity to demonstrate this to our children. We thought it would be a good forum to bring people together.”

For Choi and her husband, Hoek, who are Korean American, the event resonated on many levels. “Having the candlelight vigil was an opportunity to show our children that they should be hopeful and positive, that their community and friends will stand up for them at a time when things are happening that could upset them. We wanted to reinforce the good things of the community they live in,” she said.

The program began with the song “Faces,” written and performed by Katelin Penner, a junior at Hastings High School. Though Penner wrote the song more than a year ago, she thought it expressed “the period of change the event was addressing. The opening refrain is ‘Faces come, faces go,’ which is a way of saying that this too shall pass.”

Martin, a resident of Cross River, was invited to lead the program due to his experience leading training sessions on the art of dialogue. He is related to Melissa Curtin by marriage.

“I think it is so important to show love and support for what is crucial,” Martin told the Enterprise. “Events like this should be happening all over the country, where we have an opportunity to share our concern about the mutual challenges, the big-big issues that we face.”

During his speech, Martin encouraged attendees to speak to a stranger nearby for at least a minute. Angela DeCicco of Dobbs Ferry told a fellow attendee about the “hope I have that eventually we can all come together and get along.”

As it was a windy afternoon, Martin urged attendees to huddle together to light the candles that had been provided, both a fitting symbolic gesture and a necessary need for collaboration. In closing, he offered several definitions of the word “vigil” — as a time to be aware, a time to be awake.

“I was particularly moved by Danny’s comments about seizing the opportunities we have to focus on what we share, our commonalities, not what our differences are,” Curtin said. “As concerned parents, that is what Becky, Maria, Purim, and I hoped to achieve by bringing our own community together.”

Among those comforted by the gathering was Lorraine Campanelli, director of Cabrini Immigration Services in Dobbs Ferry. She attended with a number of Cabrini’s adult tutors.

“Some of our clients are so scared,” Campanelli said. “It is so beautiful that the town is doing this. It is really a wonderful sign to the entire community.”

Also impressed was 11-year-old Maeve Van Engen of Dobbs Ferry. “I found this very inspiring,” she said. “It was a great idea, with the candles passing on the idea of love and hope, where it doesn’t matter what your religion is or the color of your skin.”

Another of the words called out in response to what the community would need in the future was “action.” This resonated with Peck.

“I was so thrilled by the number of people who turned out, and by their willingness to vocalize their recognition of a shared humanity,” she said. “They participated, by being here, by lighting the candles. It made me realize that we do need to be advocates, particularly for those people who feel marginalized.”

With that in mind, Peck and her fellow moms will maintain the Facebook page (Be the Light Candlelight Vigil) they used to promote the event. It will be updated to include resources and agencies that can use the energy evident at the vigil.

Read more local coverage of your hometown in this week’s issue of the Rivertowns Enterprise. Newsstand copies are available at several locations listed above, or subscribe today for convenient home delivery.


DECember 2, 2016

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