Christmas stockings in the names of victims of the school shootings in Newtown,… (Julio Cortez / Associated…)
Memorials to the Sandy Hook Elementary School victims flourished on Christmas Day as Newtown, Conn., police got a break from holiday duty, with officers from nearby jurisdictions relieving them.
The usual Christmas trappings dotted the town -- wreaths, trees -- but alongside the teddy bears and other mementos dominated by the number 26, for the 20 students and six school staffers shot dead at Sandy Hook on Dec. 14.
The Danbury News Times reported 26 Christmas stockings dangling from a rail, 26 cardboard angels in the snow, 26 Christmas trees at one intersection -- tributes that, in number, omit Nancy Lanza, the shooter's mother and his first victim. Adam Lanza became the 28th fatality, killing himself and leaving a community reeling from the incomphrensibility of his crime.
So the familiar rituals of opening presents on Christmas morning came with the more somber rituals of grief and remembrance. Some mourners set up a 24-hour candlelight vigil in the city -- with 26 candles -- including a tent to protect the flames from the snow that descended on the Northeast for the holiday.
"You have to do something and you don’t know what to do, you know? You really feel very helpless in this situation," said Newtown resident Joanne Brunetti, who signed up to watch over the candles with her husband. "People have been wonderful to everybody in Newtown whether you were part of what happened or not," she told the Associated Press. "My thought is, if we were all this nice to each other all the time, maybe things like this wouldn’t happen."
The giving spirit has been immense in the days since the Sandy Hook massacre, from residents, visitors and first responders alike.
Lt. Bob Kozlowsky of the Shelton, Conn., police department told CNN: "We've sent officers, dispatchers, and even our chief of police has gone to Newtown to help out. We've helped with dispatching, traffic, miscellaneous calls. Our chief of police has gone to assist their chief of police with administrative duties."
And at St. Rose of Lima Roman Catholic Church, where visitors packed inside for services, the Rev. Robert Weiss told parishioners, "We know Christmas in a way we never ever thought we would know it. We need a little Christmas and we've been given it," the Associated Press reported.
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