ALAMEDA -- More than 20 Alamedans gathered in the rain on Christmas Day to remember the children and educators killed at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn.

More than 50 tulip bulbs were planted in a small bed near the rose garden in Lincoln Park. Metal flower markers were used to acknowledge the names of each of the 26 victims of the shooting.

"This tragedy shocked my community. I needed the Newtown community to know that they are not alone and wanted to do something to redirect my feelings of grief and helplessness," said event organizer Laira Pippen. "Gathering as a community to plant something beautiful that will have life and grow was cathartic."

A photo of the flower bed with the victims' names will be sent to Newtown to let their community know that people in Alameda are thinking of them. Organizers plan to send another photo in the spring when the flowers bloom.

The event came together quickly thanks to the cooperation of the Alameda Recreation and Parks Department. Amy Wooldridge, director of ARPD, was on board right away.

"This memorial to the Newtown children and teachers is a wonderful local effort that ARPD is proud to be a part of," Wooldridge said. "It embodies the close-knit community spirit of Alameda."

ARPD helped Pippen and co-organizer MaryEllen Proctor find an appropriate site and select and purchase bulbs and soil, which Encinal Nursery sold to the parks department at a discount.


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Pippen and Proctor worked closely with numerous park staff who took personal time to contribute to the project, including Dennis McDaniels, Mike Richina, Kurt Ogata and Mark Smith. Ogata and Smith came early on Christmas morning to prepare the soil for planting.

"They mixed concrete and helped prepare the markers for placement in the ground, gathered the supplies and lent their support to the project. We are so grateful to the entire team of ARPD folks that helped," Proctor said.

The event was organized in only a few days, as Pippen and Proctor wanted to do the planting on Christmas Day. "This time of year is so focused on children and families, we just couldn't imagine what the families of these victims were going through right now," Pippen and Proctor said. "We felt that planting on Christmas had universal significance."

-- Laira Pippen

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