RICHMOND, Va (WTVR)— John Beardsworth has been a resident of Richmond for more than 30 years, but his heart has always been in Newtown, Connecticut.
Growing up in a Norman Rockwell-esque town in the 1960s, Beardsworth said he has fond memories of parades down Main Street, swimming in the river, and attending school at Sandy Hook Elementary.
“It’s the kind of existence that you would want for every kid and for every adult,” Beardsworth says.
Inside his office at the law firm of Hunton & Williams, Beardsworth proudly displays a fire helmet from his days as a volunteer firefighter at the Newtown Hook and Ladder Company. He also has a dictionary, inscribed with a message from the Sandy Hook Elementary PTA.
On the morning of December 14, the latest edition of The Newtown Bee, the town’s local paper, had just been delivered to Beardsworth’s office, when a gunman opened fire at his old school, killing 20 children and nearly a half dozen adults.
“It was an absolute shock that that sort of thing could happen at a place like that,” Beardsworth says. “If it could happen there, it could happen anywhere.”
Beardsworth says several of his friends and family back in Connecticut have a connection to the tragedy, and many are grieving.
“Newtown is a town of 27-thousand, but it really is very small,” Beardsworth says. “It doesn’t matter who you speak with … everyone knows someone who was intimately affected.”
While Beardsworth says his family is reaching out to the town through donations to the United Way, he’s encouraging other families to reach out in thought and prayer.
Beardsworth is not the only Central Virginian with a connection to the town or the victims. Twenty miles to our south, in Petersburg, Kim Harrell, a mother of two, says she feels compelled to do something for the residents of Newtown.
“I feel like we’re connected,” Harrell says.
Harrell has started a group called P.R.A.Y., which stands for Parents Responding All Year. The group is encouraging others to pray for children in schools across the nation.
Harrell held a prayer vigil Tuesday night at the Faith & Hope Temple in Petersburg.
Beardsworth says small acts of kindness, will help his grieving hometown find some peace and comfort.
“It’s people around the country, people here in Richmond, Virginia, who are thinking of the children of Newtown and trying to help with the process as they come through this horrific tragedy.”