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Grief unending for Sandy Hook -- 'There is no answer to this'

December 20, 2012|By Michael Muskal and Tina Susman

NEWTOWN, Conn. -- People in this idyllic New England town returned on Thursday morning to the church that has served as the centerpiece of its grief and mourned another of the town’s young victims killed last week at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

In what has become a tragic daily occurrence this week, people gathered at St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church for a funeral, this time for Catherine Violet Hubbard, 6. She was one of the 20 first-graders killed Friday morning when a gunman invaded their classroom area at the school.

In her obituary, the Hubbard family said Catherine would be remembered for her passion for animals and her constant smile.

PHOTOS: Mourning after the massacre

Hundreds of people lined up outside Newtown’s sole funeral home and nearby churches as the town struggled through another day of services to remember victims of Friday's massacre.

As hearses passed along Main Street, pedestrians stopped in their tracks, still appearing in shock over the crime. Mourners in black dabbed at their eyes, and some crossed directly from the funeral home to the Town Hall, to sit with grief counselors inside or to gaze at the mounting pile of sympathy cards, candles and stuffed animals in the plaza outside the historic building.

“There is no answer to this,” said Janet Bryant, who lives in nearby Roxbury and was standing near the Honan Funeral Home with her dog, Bandit.

“How will they deal with it?” she wondered aloud to herself. “I suppose they each will deal with in a way that brings them comfort, even though there is no comfort.”

Nearby, Trinity Episcopal Church on Main Street was filled to capacity for the funeral of Benjamin Wheeler, 6. The service for a child described as a lighthouse buff, budding musician and Beatles fan included a rendition of “Here Comes The Sun” and the hymn “Amazing Grace.”

Benjamin's five uncles acted as pallbearers. About two dozen Boy Scout leaders lined the front pathway to the church in honor of the former Cub Scout.

The outpouring of grief this week has broken through the emotional barriers of even the most hardened. In Danbury, so many people showed up to remember substitute teacher Lauren Rousseau on Thursday that they could not all fit inside the church where her service was held. The school psychologist, Mary J. Sherlach, was being remembered at a service in Trumbull.

At least nine funerals and wakes were held Wednesday, with at least four earlier in the week. Funerals were also scheduled in Connecticut on Thursday for 7-year-old Grace McDonnell and 6-year-olds Jesse McCord Lewis and Allison Wyatt. More are scheduled for Friday and Saturday.

In addition to the services, the family of 6-year-old Olivia Rose Engel has calling hours Thursday.

Along with the 20 children, the gunman, Adam Lanza killed six adults, including teacher Anne Marie Murphy, whose funeral was held in Katonah, N.Y. There, New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan invoked the Christmas season, comparing Murphy’s sacrifice to that made by Jesus.

“Like Jesus, Annie laid down her life for her friends,” Dolan said. “Like Jesus, Annie's life and death brings light, truth, goodness and love to a world often shrouded in darkness, evil, selfishness and death.”

As the Archbishop of New York, Dolan is one of the most visible Catholic figures in the United States and a power in his church internationally.

“He comes as a shepherd,” said the Rev. Paul Waddell of St. Mary of the Assumption Church in Katonah, where Murphy was baptized and married. “He is here because of what it says in the scriptures: We weep with those who weep and mourn with those who mourn.”

Murphy was a mother of four who grew up in a large family in Katonah. Her parents, Alice and Hugh McGowan, are considered pillars of St. Mary’s parish.

Murphy, 52, a special education teacher, tried to protect her pupils during the rampage. Her death “brought together a community, a nation, a world, now awed by her own life and death,” Dolan said.

Murphy's brother-in-law Thomas Newman read a brief statement before the service.

Her relatives “pray, for all the families touched so terribly, that God may help these feelings of such great pain and grief pass quickly; that they be replaced with only happy thoughts and joyous memories of those we have lost,” they said, according to video from the scene.

Lanza began his murderous spree Friday morning by shooting his mother, Nancy, four times and ended it by killing himself. In all, 28 people died last week.

Newtown has been trying to cope with its grief ever since in memorial services and funerals, each tugging at the nation’s heartstrings. The shooting and funerals have also reopened a national debate on gun control.

A U.S. Justice Department official told The Los Angeles Times that Atty. Gen. Eric Holder will travel to Newtown on Friday to meet with first responders and law enforcement officials. The trip comes after Holder was to meet with Vice President Joe Biden, who is heading the Obama administration’s efforts to draw up proposals on how to deal with gun control.

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