20 Brighter Stars: Shocked Connecticut Town Mourns Its Slain Children

Only hours after a gunman took 20 of their children, a small town's people turned to its religious leaders to begin the process of rebuilding their lives

  • Share
  • Read Later
David Goldman / AP

A flag flies at half-staff on Main Street in Newtown, Conn., on Dec. 15 2012

The flag that flies above Newtown, in Connecticut, sits in the middle of Main Street, atop a 40-ft. flagpole at the intersection of Church Hill Road. The street names are literal: Main Street contains the police station and the town’s historic homes, while Church Hill slopes down past a stone Episcopal chapel. Spotlights midway up the mast ensure that the flag remains illuminated even in the darkness. As night descended over Newtown yesterday, the 10-ft.-long flag hung limply at half-staff just above the spotlights.

Less than eight hours before, a gunman entered Sandy Hook Elementary School just on the other side of this small, affluent town, killed 20 children and six adults, then reportedly took his own life. Early reports detail a chaotic scene. According to eyewitnesses, the children could hear screams over the intercom as their friends were slaughtered.

(MORE: Massacre of the Innocents: Chilling Details About the Gunman in the Schoolhouse)

According to media reports, some of the children were told to close their eyes and hold hands as they were led from the building.

Once in the safety of the local volunteer firehouse, the trauma ended, but the tragedy’s second phase played out. Parents, having been alerted to a school shooting by a reverse 911 call, rushed to the firehouse where they frantically searched for their children. For many, there were tearful reunions, but for several other parents, the searches ended when police officials asked them to go into a separate room. There, they were told that their children were among those believed to be dead.

For many of the young children emerging from a nightmare, it was a confusing scene. “They were kind of torn, whether they wanted to go home with their parents or they wanted to stay there and protect their friends,” Monsignor Robert Weiss, pastor of St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church, said. He was one of the first of the town’s clergy to arrive at the firehouse and counseled parents whose children had been killed. “It was brutal,” he said. “I can’t think of a better word. It was just brutal to witness the pain today.”

Shortly after darkness fell, nearly a thousand of the town’s residents packed St. Rose of Lima Church. Every single seat in the 650-person chapel was filled, and people stood shoulder to shoulder in the sanctuary’s aisles. They packed the choir pews and spilled out into the parking lot from every open door. People stood dozens deep in the narthex and out into the parking lot.

(PHOTOS: Connecticut Community Copes After School Shooting)

Just inside the church, a sign hung above their heads, saying in big block letters, “Love One Another.” This was Jesus’ commandment, as written in the Gospel According to John: “As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” Along the church’s brick facade, people made room for one another, taking turns by the open windows to listen in silence to the sounds of the service. The music of hymns wafted out of the warm church and over those gathered in the frigid night air.

Toward the end of the service, two young parishioners who barely looked like teenagers walked to the edge of the parking lot and offered the assembled masses the Holy Communion. Dozens accepted, reverently consuming the wafers before disappearing back into the crowd.

An hour after Weiss began the service, the sounds of the devotional song “On Eagle’s Wings” emerged from the church:

And he will raise you up on eagle’s wings/ Bear you on the breath of dawn

Make you shine like the sun/ And hold you in the palm of His hand.

(MORE: Am I Safe? Talking to Your Kids About the Sandy Hook School Shooting)

As the congregation began to depart, Weiss spoke about the children they had lost and the parents who now have to bury them. He talked about a father who had described how excited he was when his son, who was killed in the massacre, had scored his first soccer goal. “There was a lot of happiness in the midst of a lot of tears today,” Weiss said.

When a reporter asked how the community would deal with such an immense tragedy at Christmastime, Weiss answered, “These 20 children lit up this community better than all the Christmas lights we have.” And with a gentle nod upward, he added, “There are 20 brighter stars in the heavens.”

Well after midnight, stars shone brightly over Newtown. In a sky with no clouds, they scattered over treetops and houses and church steeples, and above the towering flagpole at the center of the town. The flag glowed brightly in the spotlight as if it hadn’t moved at all, still hanging halfway down the mast. It is likely to remain there for some time.

MORE: Outside the White House, Gun-Control Activists Make a Subdued Call to Action

10 comments
AnnmarieSuggitt
AnnmarieSuggitt

I send my condolences to the families of the heroic teachers and the beautiful children, god bless you all.

AdamSmith1
AdamSmith1

Don't waste your time at trading forums to learn to trade these places are no good at all, I learned my lesson the hard way. Go over to the website Traders Superstore I recently found them purchase their courses and now I'm learning to trade for myself and finding it's nowhere near as hard as I thought it was. The guy there showing how to make $500 a day through a very simple technique he developed which works! I know because I'm doing it myself, takes a little practice but if I can do it anybody can.

AnumakondaJagadeesh
AnumakondaJagadeesh

I send condolences to the bereaved families and to the American people.I pray that the families and the American people find the strength to overcome this terrible tragedy,

Dr.A.Jagadeesh  Nellore(AP),India

travisvzr
travisvzr

The NUMBER ONE thing to do is to rally the GUN companies to use the billions they make to put GUN safety first not Ownership!!!I here every one saying we live in the Google generation… OKGUN COMPANY'S! If Google can make a car drive by its self then you can make a SAFE GUNFinger print recognition, safer locks, Slower Fire Speeds, ECT…get with itWe don’t have to take GUNS away, which would never happen,get realBut we can limit how many guns a person can have and stop semi-automatic weaponsEVER see a deer Hunter put 10 rounds into his game? I think not...it would destroy the meatPolice and Army should be the only licensed person to have semi-automaticI mean com on Bullet proof vests is e-legal in most states but you can have a semi-automatic,I think we should have Armed Guard’s from the military or from a state GovernmentIn all GUN free zones…Its time to make a Stand with your voice...This stuff needs to happen right now are kids are not safe!!

jmazz
jmazz

This is an unimaginable and painful assault on our society, but especially on those aggrieved. But, what will add to that pain is what follows and that will be the explanations based on a bastardized sense of freedom and religion. It looks like our society has no will to understand itself or to cure itself. It all has become a sort of 'learned reflexive response.' May the aggrieved be spared from this painful part of our obscene social ritual.  My deepest sympathies for those whose souls have been so unfairly torn apart.

When will the American mind decipher the difference between "Liberty, Freedom, and Dignity?"

smajhuw
smajhuw

It comes down to making sure our family gets their fair share. The rich are trying to hide this from you and we are going to expose it!!! Google "RICH DEBT REVEALED''" then go to the top site. They have an DEBT CONSOLIDATION section that you need to click on so you can see the truth!

loa777
loa777

Our youth need better role models, our leaders are corrupt and inept. If our leaders think it's okay to bomb grannies and babies in Bagdad, then what kind of role model are they? And all the bickering in Washington doesn't help. Crushing unions and stealing our retirement doesn't help. Corporate crimes go unpunished, people suffer, and the rich get richer. There's no accountability at the top. The backlash will only continue.

SkeezixB
SkeezixB

... 

Studies have confirmed that mental illness results fromnutritional deficiencies. It'd be interesting to determinehow severely malnourished the shooter was.  The most important thing to do to express condolences for the victims is to point out that the killer wasn't sane and that anger won't heal the bereaved.  

The obligation of a civilized society is to understand thecauses of such events well enough to offer preventive measures, sparing others in the future by learning what must be done to protect them. 

Was the shooter exposed to toxins throughout his life? Yes, and such are known to cause neurological damage. Was the shooter ever actually provided with nutrientswhich could facilitate the removal of toxins and promotemetabolism capable of supporting healthy mental function? No, he was forced to subsist on the defective/deficient dietimposed on so many others. Did anyone have the knowledge and opportunity to detectthe specific issues affecting this person, much less seek toaddress them? No, his parents couldn't be there for him nor could any ofthe doctors, nurses, teachers, counselors, or others withwhom he'd been associated his whole life. People do exactly what their circumstances force them to do.When what people do is not acceptable, then the conditionsthey experience must be modified accordingly. The public needs to put human wellbeing first, rather than theprofits from doing damage and casting blame. We owe it to ourselves to learn from this, yesterday.

...


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,105 other followers