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Twenty-six angels, carved from wood, stand as a tribute along U.S. Highway 64 West to the victims, most of them young children, of the Dec. 14 tragedy in the tight-knit community of Newtown, Conn.
“I just felt so bad for all the kids and their families,” said Jeff Parker of Parker Construction and the Parker Valley Farm in McBurg. “It just came to me … At first I thought building something like this was silly, but as I talked to my employees and family, I thought it was something that needed to be done.”
The 26 angels line the gentle slope of a hill on the south side of U.S. 64, about 11 miles outside of Fayetteville. Twenty of the angels form the shape of a heart in remembrance of the 20 young lives taken when a heavily armed man walked into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown and opened fire. Flanking the heart-shaped outline are six more angels, three on either side, for the six adults killed at the school by the gunman.
Each of the angels bear the name and age of a victim, and above them all is a sign, stating simply, “God Bless Newtown.” The sign itself is flanked by what Parker called two guardian angels.
“It took us four days to build,” he said of the work he, his employees and his family did, cutting the angels from plywood, painting them, and then adding each of the names and ages of the victims. Then building the display and lighting it.
Helping in the project were Jimmy Thomas and Ronny Spears, as well as Parker’s wife, Betty, daughter Crystal, and stepdaughter Anita Forbes.
“Louis Tucker let us run electricity off his barn, and David Hall donated the letters for the sign,” Parker said, appreciative of everyone’s work.
“Once we decided to go through with building it, everything just came together,” he added, noting that the display will likely remain up through this week. “I can’t believe how many cars have stopped and how many people have taken pictures … I think everybody everywhere was really impacted by what happened in Newtown.”
Parker has been in the construction business almost 40 years. He and his family also have the Parker Valley Farm, a farm established there in the McBurg area in 1932.