SCOTIA, N.Y. – Twenty bells softly jingle as a wind blows through the once-vacant lot that neighbors the Scotia-Glenville High School.
Ron Fonda idles through the pathway created by the semi-circle of pine trees that now occupy the lot, pausing at each to read over the names starkly written in black on white rectangular signs in the upper areas of the trees. He listens to the bells that jingle on their branches.
Hundreds of residents from around the area have journeyed to Fonda's makeshift memorial, in order to pay their respects for the twenty child victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre. Each pine tree has its own bell and angel ornament. On every tree also hangs a sign, each with the hand-written name of one of the child victims.
"These trees represent the 20 pure, innocent little children," said Fonda of the memorial he built using donated material from the community. "Children that had no racism. No bad things about them. They were pure. They were not tainted with anything, other than love and life. And that's what this is for."
Fonda said the makeshift memorial has slowed down traffic in the area and puts Newtown's loss into perspective for the community, making the tragic event in Connecticut feel present and real.
Fonda's drive to create the memorial stemmed from his deep personal association with the holiday of Christmas, the love and tenderness he has toward his own children and the deep sadness he felt when he learned of the children killed in Sandy Hook Elementary School.
Fonda was born on Christmas day and was deeply affected when he thought of the absence that would be wrought during this year's Christmas celebrations, by the children that had passed away.
"You never know when they're going to be gone," said Ron of the children, advocating that every parent take an extra moment to lovingly hug their own child this holiday season.
The memorial is humbling. It still brings tears to Fonda's eyes.
Niskayuna resident Stacey Bentrovato was among those who made their way out to Scotia, to stand before the trees in reflection.
She said she hoped to embrace the memory of the children killed in Newtown and to incorporate them into her heart.
"That's the only way to heal," said Bentrovato.
When flattered or praised for the creation of the memorial, Ron Fonda smiled and shook his head, declining all compliments.
"I was just the hands that put it together," he said.
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