As tiny snowflakes gently danced in the chilly breeze, two white horses pulled a small white carriage adorned with pink, purple and white flowers on its roof down Blue Hills Avenue, a child-sized, snow-white casket protected inside.
Ana Grace Márquez-Greene, 6, of Newtown, was brought to The First Cathedral in Bloomfield for her homegoing celebration as if she were a princess.
Ana, described as a vibrant, loving, and prayerful girl whose primary mode of transportation was dance, was one of 20 children killed on Dec. 14 at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown.
Ana was born in Hartford and had lived with her family in Bloomfield before moving to Canada, according to her obituary. The family had relocated back to Connecticut two months ago, according to news reports.
In a statement last week, Ana’s family asked this:
“We ask that you pray for the legions of people who are left behind to cherish memories of her. We also ask that you, like Ana, commit selfless acts of kindness to all those around you. Maybe, in some way, through love, similar senseless acts of violence could be prevented.”
Despite their indescribable grief, the family and friends who gathered in the 4,000-seat cathedral on Saturday chose to celebrate Ana's spirit by remembering her own words: “Love wins.”
Outside and across the street, Christina Carmon, of Windsor, said she intends to honor the family’s wishes.
As mourners filed into the cathedral, Carmon stood with her three daughters — a 6-year-old and 4-year-old twins — quietly reflecting on the day and praying for the family.
“I haven’t been able to sleep,” Carmon said as she gently rocked Elizabeth, 4, while the other two, Catherine, 4, and Juliana, 6, played in the grass.
“Normal is different now. Such innocent children,” she said of Ana Grace and her 19 peers who were killed.
Carmon continues to tell her own first-grader that she’s safe at school, St. Gabriel’s in Windsor.
“They talked about it on Friday and have been praying for the families every day,” Carmon said of the school. “We’ve reassured her that she’s safe, but truthfully, how can we be sure?”
Carmon, who did not attend the funeral services and who does not know the family, said she came out Saturday morning to pay her respects to the family, to offer them support and honor Ana’s life.
“Her saying was ‘love wins.’ I think it will,” Carmon said.
Just before the service, mourners released one purple ballon and then 25 white ones to represent the victims at Sandy Hook Elementary. Purple was Ana's favorite color.
During the services, candles were expected to be lit in memory of Ana’s classmates, teachers, and all of the Sandy Hook staff who died on Dec. 14 and to honor the first responders, according to the family-endorsed Facebook page Remembering Ana Márquez-Greene.
The family has established several scholarships in Ana’s memory, including The Ana Grace Márquez-Greene Music Scholarship at Western Connecticut State University’s Department of Music in Danbury, the Ana Grace Márquez-Greene Family Therapy Fund with the Klingberg Family Centers in New Britain, and another at the Artist’s Collective in Hartford, CT.
Friends of the family have established the Ana Grace Fund to support the family.