NEWTOWN, Conn. - Early morning came with freezing rain in Newtown on Sunday, hardly noticed by the grieving residents already numbed by the violent deaths of six adults and 20 young children at the Sandy Hook Elementary School two days earlier.
“We are at a loss for words,” said retired teacher and former Newtown High School football coach Bob Joseph. “This whole thing is a nightmare. I look at these names and I only hope these names aren’t the same names of children of students I used to teach and coach.”
Joseph and his wife, Pat, were standing on the corner of Dickenson Drive and Main Street in downtown Newtown.
They were praying near the hundreds of candles and stuffed animals people had left as signs of remembrance for those who died Friday morning when 20-year-old Adam Lanza broke into the school armed with an assault rifle and went on a shooting spree before committing suicide inside the school.
‘We are just in shock’
“We are just in shock and we are so saddened by all of this,” Joseph said, repeating a refrain that would be heard again and again in the New England community of 27,000. It is a place much like Lewisburg, with quaint shops lining a downtown business district, Christmas decorations reflecting off a creek through town and a sense of family in these hours of grief.
“Can I ask you a question?” a reporter asked one woman who was kneeling to pray at the makeshift shrine.
“Sure, if I can ask one first,” she said. “Do you know any of these victims or any of their families?”
The reporter shook his head no.
“Well, I do,” she said. “We all do who live here. We are broken. We are grieving. And as much as we appreciate the media letting people know how much we are grieving, right now we don’t care who is in the town or who is coming to our town. We just care about those children and adults who will be forever known to us as heroes.”
A block away, hundreds of people gathered and held hands and hugged.
“Everybody knows somebody in this town,” resident Lori Lopez said. “I came to pay my respects and all I can say is we are in shock, and we are hurting. I agree with saying we are broken.”
Two miles up the road, an overflow crowd spilled out of church services at St. Rose of Lima Roman Catholic Church, with its now familiar white-pillared portico, that has become an iconic location for the community in the past two days. Some parishioners stood outside, forming a barrier to the media.
“We understand that you all are here,” one man said. “But please understand and be aware of why we as our town are all here as well.”