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Amherst leaders send sympathies to Connecticut community affected by mass shooting

AMHERST — Reflecting on the pain caused by the school massacre in Newtown, Conn., the Amherst Select Board Monday issued a letter of condolences that will be sent to the elected leaders of the community.

Select Board Chairwoman Stephanie O’Keeffe, holding back tears, read the letter she penned to E. Patricia Llodra and the other members of the Select Board in Newtown that offers sympathies for last week’s tragedy that left 20 children and six adults dead at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

“Please know that the people of Amherst weep and grieve with you,” O’Keeffe said. “We honor you with prayers, with vigils, with acts of kindness and with efforts to prevent future gun violence and to improve resources for treating mental illness.”

The agenda for the Amherst Select Board is set on the Thursdays of the preceding week, but always has room for “topics the chair did not reasonably anticipate 48 hours before the meeting.” O’Keeffe said it was important to use this exception because so many people in Amherst are reacting to the shootings and want to reach out to their neighbors in Connecticut.

“It feels almost as raw to us as it does to them,” O’Keeffe said.

The letter expresses gratitude to the first responders who arrived at the scene, and compassion to all those directly affected.

“We salute the brave men and women of your emergency responder forces for their courageous acts, and wish them solace for all that they have had to endure. We ache for the teachers, administrators, staff and families of your school system. There are no words.”

O’Keeffe’s letter also gives confidence to the town’s leaders to get through these challenging times.

“We recognize and appreciate how much your own leadership means to your community right now, and we wish you great strength in that. And we hold all of the residents of Newtown in our hearts,” O’Keeffe said. “Please know that 100 miles away, Amherst stands strong with Newtown.”

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