Emotions were high at an event to honor victims of domestic violence Saturday.
The first annual "Walk to End the Silence" paid tribute to 7-month-old Aaden Moreno, whose father allegedly threw him from the Arrigoni Bridge into the Connecticut River on July 5.
“Unbelievable. I could not believe it. I was flabbergasted. It’s crazy and surreal,” said Kim Tyrseck, of neighboring Portland.
The first responders who spent two days searching for the boy’s body returned to the river this weekend to remember Aaden and raise money for New Horizons Domestic Violence Services, which serves all of Middlesex County.
"We didn't want his death to be in vain, so we wanted to put together something that we could raise awareness of domestic violence because there's so much of it,” said Cpt. Gary Wallace, a member of the Middletown Police Department and one of the organizers of the event.
Wallace said he hoped to turn the tragedy into something good and make the walk an annual event. The walk also gave the community, hit hard by the boy's death, a chance to heal.
"It was a trauma that was so shocking and so horrible. It’s really impossible to conceive the depth of impact that it had on people,” said Middletown Mayor Daniel Drew.
A spokesperson for New Horizons said the money raised will be used for programs and outreach at the shelter.
Michelle Waldner, who serves as program director, added that domestic violence is more prevalent than many people realize. She said one third of women have been victims of domestic violence.
“Everybody knows someone who’s been a victim. Whether you realize it or not. It’s that friend or that family member where you’ve always wondered and question. So I think this touches everyone,” said Waldner.
Waldner and others hoped the walk would help give a voice to the voiceless, including baby Aaden.
"I think it brought everybody a little bit closer and like I said bring more awareness to help other families out to hopefully not let this happen again,” said Middletown resident Matt Nettis.
To report domestic violence or seek help, call the statewide domestic violence hotline at 888-774-2900 or visit the Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence online.