New Castle News

December 26, 2012

Tragic tribute: Man creates lighted angel display as tribute to slain Newtown children

Dan Irwin
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — Angels always have been a part of Christmas.

But not like this.

In Scripture, heavenly messengers announce “tidings of great joy” to shepherds near Bethlehem, proclaiming the birth of Jesus.

However, in the 4648 Harlansburg Road yard of Marsha and Jerry Martin, 20 wooden cherubim call attention instead to a national tragedy: the Dec. 14 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.  Twenty children and six adults died that day when a lone gunman went on a rampage before committing suicide.

Now, just a stone’s throw from traditional holiday decorations, the Martins’ home also features 20 winged plywood silhouettes – each one illuminated – as well as a star that shines above them. They were created and erected by 43-year-old New Castle native Ed Stoner, Marsha Martin’s son.

“I guess part of what got me is that on the news I kept hearing ‘20 angels,’ ‘20 angels,’ ” Stoner said. “That’s what gave me the angel idea. Every year we always put up Christmas lights and Christmas display for kids to enjoy. I just thought this would be a respectful addition to it.”

For Stoner, the display – which features 12 girls and eight boys — is not only a tribute to the slain children and their families, but also a way to come to grips with the full scope of the killings.

“It brings it into perspective for me,” he said. “You keep hearing that it was 20, but to me, 20 is just a number. But whenever you look at that and you actually see 20 angels, that really makes you understand. Twenty kids – that’s a whole basketball team; in some small towns, that might be an entire graduating class.

“When you see that physically, I think it helps drive that home. But I didn’t do it just for me, I did it for everybody else, and to remember and respect.”

It took Stoner about four days to create the display, and a few hours to set it up. His stepfather didn’t see it until the project was complete.

“I was doing some chores, and I didn’t realize what he was up to,” Jerry Martin said. “But when I came up and I saw all the children, I gotta admit, I started to get a little choked up.”

Stoner said his mother moved some of the family’s Christmas decorations to create a “respectful” separation between celebrating the season and remembering the taken.

And yet, perhaps just a bit of the Christmas message spills over any way.

“At first,” Stoner said, “I was planning on just doing the silhouettes. But then I added the star – just as a reminder that they are in a better place.”

(Email: d_irwin@ncnewsonline.com)