Messages of hope for Newtown victims

26 Christmas stockings are hung in a pine tree in the medium between Ute and Pitkin Aves at 15th Street one for each of the persons killed in the Newtown, Conn. shootings. A sign under the tree says to please write a letter to the families and put them in the stockings.

Cheery, red stockings hang from a tree in the median between Pitkin and Ute avenues, attracting the gaze of motorists cruising by. At the tree’s base, a note asks folks to jot down words of support for the victims of last week’s elementary school massacre in Connecticut.

The goodwill gesture was created by Grand Junction mother Annie Wright in response to her 11-year-old son’s despair over wanting to help somehow.

“My son, when he heard the story, the first thing out of his mouth was, ‘Mom what can we do?’” Wright said.

Wright said she spent a day last week thinking about what she could do to help relieve some of the grief that has gripped her family and the nation since a shooter last Friday killed 20 students and six teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Wright struck upon the idea to send the victims’ families messages of support. Each stocking is labeled with the birthdate and the name of a victim. 

“When he came home that night from school, I said, ‘We’re going to send letters to the family,’ ” Wright said she told her son, Camron. “He almost cried. He said, ‘Oh my gosh, that is so nice.’”

Wright said she will collect the letters until Jan. 7 and send them either to the Sandy Hook police station or to a priest she saw speaking on television news.

The stockings are placed in a tree near the intersection of 15th Street. Wright said she chose that place because it is highly visible and she drives past it daily on her way to and from work.

Friends also helped decorate the tree and Walmart donated some of the ornaments that adorn the tree, Wright said.

The heartbreaking school shooting has been an opportunity to teach her son the importance of caring for others.

She’s also used the situation to talk about what it really means to be a hero.

She had to rein him in a bit when her son initially talked about how he would have worked to keep those students safe.

“To be a hero is to listen to adults,” Wright said she told him. “When you do see people who are hurting you don’t make fun of them or hurt them. It’s those people that can do harm because no one took the time to take care of them.”


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