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Sandy Hook: Firefighters try to shield memorial from storm

December 20, 2012|By Molly Hennessy-Fiske
  • Paramedics and others rush toward Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., shortly after the shootings that killed 26.
Paramedics and others rush toward Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown,… (Shannon Hicks / Newtown…)

NEWTOWN, Conn. -- Dozens of people filed past a growing memorial outside the Sandy Hook firehouse Thursday night as the smoke of scented candles wafted through the air.

With a wind and rainstorm expected Friday, frefighters set up tents to protect portions of the expanding shrine to the 26 shooting victims killed at nearby Sandy Hook Elementary School, including 26 Christmas trees. The toll included 20 children and six teachers and administrators.

 Sandy Hook Assistant Fire Chief Michael Burton surveyed the trees along with his 17-year-old son, Michael Burton Jr., a junior member of the fire department. Both were in firefighter gear and still on duty.

 PHOTOS: Mourning after the massacre 

 "We're making sure nothing happens to our little angels," said Burton, 52,  pointing to the Christmas trees, each topped with a white angel. He was wary of the candles, worried about fire risks and the impending storm.

"It's a beautiful thing," he said of the memorial. "You don't want the memorials to get tossed around. We want to preserve it as long as we can."

Burton's daughter is also a member of the fire department, and his wife works at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

He was among the first responders to arrive at the school after the shooting. Late Thursday, as he stared at the memorial glowing in the dark, he said he could not talk about that day.

He wasn't sure yet where he would be  at 9:30 a.m. Friday for the moment of silence planned to commemorate the victims a week after the attack.  He knew he was supposed to go to a telethon Friday at a local radio station to raise money for the community. But the moment of silence -- he wasn't sure how to handle that.

 "I haven't really thought about that yet," Burton said, eyes filling as he prepared to walk by the memorial again. "I'm just doing one thing at a time. Wherever I am, I'm sure I'll do something."

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