Taps ceremony at Greencastle-Antrim school joins Newtown mourning

PAT FRIDGEN, Echo Pilot
Todd Kirkwood played Taps at the elementary school last week in memory of the victims of the Sandy Hill Elementary School shootings.

The Greencastle-Antrim community paid tribute last week to the 20 children and six adults who died Dec. 14 at Sandy Hill Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. The victims were shot by a young armed man who broke through a secure entrance after already having killed his mother. He shot himself before police could get to him. The mass murder sent shockwaves across America.

Todd Kirkwood, a member of the Honor Guard of the 167th Airlift Wing of West Virginia Air National Guard, was in Greencastle-Antrim Elementary School the following Monday. His wife Deena teaches there, and his two children attend. As ordered by President Obama, the flag flew at half-staff. Kirkwood was touched.

"It could easily have been our school."

He later received an email from the founder of Bugles Across America, which he had joined a year and a half ago. Tom Day asked members to do something to honor the Newtown victims. The organization's purpose was to provide free live Taps at veterans funerals.

Kirkwood thought the practice was fitting in this situation, as well. He volunteered to play at 5 p.m. Monday through Friday at the elementary school, gaining approval from superintendent Dr. C. Gregory Hoover.

People learned of the event through word of mouth. Each afternoon a small crowd met at the flagpole, and Boy Scouts retired the flag. Kirkwood stood on a small rise and played Taps in the falling darkness.

"Those teachers died making the ultimate sacrifice," he said. "It is worthy to honor them, and appropriate to join Newtown in mourning."

Thursday as the last note sounded, rain began. The tears from heaven were a fitting ending to the ceremony.