NORWALK, Conn. – It was "Drop Dead Day" on the lawn in front of Norwalk City Hall.
Nearly 150 students from Brien McMahon High School suddenly dropped to the ground, followed by a solemn 30-minute period of silence
As the students lay sprawled out and still, with their eyes closed, four other students stood like statues in front of them along East Ave. and Sunset Hill Ave. holding up signs to alert passing cars and pedestrians about their cause.
That cause is child abuse, and the four students holding the placards stood as a symbol for each of the four children who die from child abuse every day in the United States.
The students held placards, such as "Kids Are Dying Every Day in America of Child Abuse," and "Child Abuse Ends Now."
The event, ironically, had been planned by the Senators Community Foundation (SCF) at the high school long before a Norwalk mother was charged with severely abusing her 5-month-old baby last week.
The mother, Jamie Lane, 22, of 5 Avenue E, was arrested Thursday and charged with first-degree assault to a minor and risk of injury to a minor, both felonies. Bond was set at $75,000. Lane appeared in Norwalk Superior Court on Friday in front of Judge Bruce Hudock. Her next court date is Oct. 14 in Stamford.
"We honor the 900,000 children who were abused last year in the United States, the 9,800 children abused in Connecticut, and the 229 children who were abused last year in Norwalk," 16-year-old Lauren Flournoy told those gathered for the vigil. "We also pay our respects to the four children in America who will die today from child abuse," Lauren said.
Then, Lauren reminded the gathering that child abuse recently hit "too close to home.
"Unfortunately, we have another reason for being here today," she said. "Last week, a 22-year-old mother right here in Norwalk abused her 5-month old baby. She broke seven of the baby's ribs and fractured her skull and one of her arms. Although the baby is safe now, we ask that you keep her in your thoughts when you 'fall dead.' ”
The students remained on the ground for 1,500 seconds, which equals the number of children abused last year in Fairfield County, Lauren said.
Caseem Ward, 17, a senior who plays on the high school football team, said he became involved in the group because he felt strongly about fighting child abuse.
"When we're out here holding up these signs and having other students fall to the ground, it draws a lot of attention to this horrible epidemic," said Caseem, who held up a placard "Child Abuse Ends Now.”
Lexy Brown, 16, also a junior and one of the group's leaders, said the group's mission is to prevent child abuse in three ways: public awareness activities, volunteer programs with children who have been abused and social change campaigns designed to influence public policies and laws.
"We're trying to let people know if they suspect child abuse is going on to report it, and if they are abusing their children to seek help immediately," Lexy said.
Norwalk Mayor Richard Moccia praised the students for their dedication.
"I was never more shocked by anything as the abuse case in Norwalk involving that 5-month-old girl," Moccia said. "But I've never been more proud of our young people as I am today, seeing you out here on a Saturday giving up your free time to hold this dramatic event ... and drawing attention to something so urgent."
What is your view on how to stop and prevent child abuse? Let us know with a comment below. You can contact Richard Weizel at firstname.lastname@example.org.