Signs at Emily Todd’s Bethel memorial damaged, her mother says
BETHEL — Jenn Lawlor and her family installed a gun violence awareness memorial dedicated to her daughter Emily Todd on Friday.
But by Saturday morning, Lawlor said, the signs for the memorial had been damaged and the coffee shop the art was installed in front of has been receiving unpleasant phone calls. Lawlor said it seems those making the calls see the art as some kind of political move, but Lawlor and her family intended it to be a memorial for Todd and to raise awareness.
Lawlor and her family installed a piece of public art in front of Molten Java on Greenwood Avenue in Bethel on Friday, which marked Gun Violence Awareness Day. The art is in honor of Todd — a 25-year-old Bethel native, who died by gun violence in Bridgeport in December 2018 — and all other victims and survivors of gun violence.
The installation included rocks — many of which were painted orange and had messages like “Peace, Love, Em” and “disarm hate” — in the shape of a peace symbol and signs from the nonprofit Everytown for Gun Safety that read featured the organization’s name and “end gun violence.”
Lawlor said her husband noticed something was wrong with the signs when he drove by Saturday morning around 9:30 a.m. She said when she took a drive through town herself, she noticed it, too.
At first, she said, she assumed maybe they had bent over from the weather — some heavy rain, perhaps — and kept driving.
Then she said she called Wendy Cahill, the owner of Molten Java who had given the family approval for the installation in front of her business, and asked if maybe she had moved the signs. Lawlor said Cahill told her she hadn’t touched them.
Lawlor said Cahill told her she had been getting “lousy phone calls with people having issue” with the gun violence awareness memorial.
Lawlor said one of the four signs had a laminated piece of paper on it that explained Todd’s story.
“That one I take personally,” Lawlor said. “I’m not sad. I’m mad. ... I’m appalled.”
While Lawlor said she hasn’t gone to police about the matter yet, she is hopeful someone will be held accountable for what happened. She said she hopes in the future people would be more likely to have a conversation with her about their feelings, then damage her daughter’s memorial.
“You want to have a conversation? Let’s have a conversation,” Lawlor said.
She said she will replace the signs with new ones, and said she’ll continue to replace any additional ones if they are damaged, but is hopeful that won’t happen.
Despite the damage to the signs, Lawlor still said Friday’s installation was “fantastic.” She said it was the first time her 9-year-old son attended a public speaking and memorial for Todd.
“This was a monumental moment,” Lawlor said. “This was a big deal. He helped me plan it.”
The longtime Bethel resident some members of her and Todd’s extended family were also there, including Lawlor’s 4-year-old and 12-year-old nephews and Lawlor’s 77-year-old mother.
“We wanted to keep it intimate,” Lawlor said. “This is a campaign that happens once a year for awareness. This was memorializing Emily and bringing awareness to how she died.”