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Newtown After Obama's Visit: 'My Heart is Hurting More'

At vigils and at local establishments, residents watch alongside visitors from near and far.

"Newtown, you are not alone," President Barack Obama told the town at a Sunday night vigil at Newtown High School.

Obama spoke alongside representatives from a wide range of Newtown's religious institutions, who offered their prayers.

Vicar Rob Morris of Christ the King Lutheran Church asked God to "heal our brokenness, to answer our questions, to replace our doubts with certainty, our anger with peace and our hurt with and healing."

Flowers and Candles in Sandy Hook

As President Obama arrived in Newtown Sunday night, the streets of Sandy Hook were packed with both media and visitors from near and far.

Passerbys dropped flowers, hand-written messages and stuffed animals among dozens of burning candles at the intersection of Church Hill Road and Washington Avenue, in front of and around a giant tree decorated for Christmas.

"I guess I'm just here to lend my support and comfort anyway I can," Camille Wallace, a Queens, NY, resident who came to Connecticut for the day. "You never really know what to do in this situation. I'm trying to talk to whoever I can, pass along a hug."

"It Hasn't Sunk In Completely Yet"

With the President offering condolences to friends and neighbors less than a mile away, patrons at The Inn at Newtown joined millions of others watching a memorial service for the victims of Friday's shooting.

One couple sat arm-in-arm throughout the service. About two dozen people watched Sunday night's memorial service on a pair of televisions.

The room was silent for much of the evening, reactions limited to one-word statements. A woman murmured "Oh my God" as the president read the first names of each child victim.

"It hasn't sunk in completely yet," said a man named Dean. (We respect the decision of several patrons to decline to give their last names.) "It comes in bits and spurts when you realize the depths of what happened."

Dean said his mother is a substitute teacher at Sandy Hook Elementary School, and was scheduled to teach second grade there the day of the shooting. She was moved to a different school at the last minute.

"All of her friends were wiped out," Dean said. "She's going through a period of grieving. There's a certain level of survivor's guilt."

After trying to attend the memorial service at the high school, Dean came to the bar to watch Sunday night. Although not a supporter of the president politically, Dean said he applauded at the end of the president's speech because the decision to visit Newtown was "the right thing to do."

"There was a sense of community in there,” he said. “People were listening, Americans were listening, they were listening to everything.”

"The Emptiness is Huge"

Another patron at the Inn, Jack, sat quietly at the bar. His brother lives in Sandy Hook. Jack spent the day trying to check on his brother -- "He knows somebody who lost somebody," he said -- but was held up by the traffic in the area.

"The sadness is still there," he said as the service ended. "After 9/11, I felt in shock, I felt saddened, and then I felt angry. Here, the sadness has just gotten deeper. These are young children ... I can't fathom children being killed... The sadness... My heart is hurting more."

Jack is a father -- his two children are 6 and 7.

"When I came home Friday, my own children found some styrofoam from Christmas packing and broke it all up as snow. I don't know if you know what it's like to clean up styrofoam. But we just let them go. Because of what happened. And they made the biggest mess."

And here his voice began to falter. 

"But we loved it. We loved every minute of it. But we can enjoy that. What can you say to somebody who's missing somebody? The emptiness is huge. Words can't express it. The community around here has come together. But the emptiness is going to be here for a while."

Sheila December 17, 2012 at 02:56 PM
My love and prayers are with you and yours. Wondering if it has been thought of, tearing the school down, trying to erase the visual memories. The Amish did this and I think it allowed everyone to put this behind them and move on.
CHRISTINE December 17, 2012 at 03:32 PM
Dear Newtown, Although Ive never visted your town, i can honestly say my heart breaks a little more each time i flip on the news and learn more details about this tragic day. i wish there was more that i could do or say, but i know there arent many words that can ease your pain. i hope you know you are not alone, and a whole nation is behind you. i cant imagine the pain you dealing with or the feelings of emptiness at this time. God is with you, and he will continue to be with you, and your loved ones, through this terrible time. each and every day you wake up, and continue to face the world, you guys are my hero's. your children are my heros, your teachers are my heros. your community's strength and perseverence through this terrible time astounds me and truely shows the strengh of the human heart. i keep you in my prayers every night. New Jersey has you in their hearts <3
jane Crowley December 17, 2012 at 03:39 PM
May God bless each of you and keep you in the palm of His hand. With deepest sympathy, Jane South Caroilina
MSM December 17, 2012 at 03:44 PM
MSM I know that words will never mitigate the pain of the families of the fallen. My first instinct was to head to your town and pay my respects but I recognize this is not the time. But please know that the hearts and minds of millions of people go out to you. I do not know what we can do now, but there will be an appropriate time in the future that all of us will be able to lend some kind tangible support. Please do not hesitate to ask. You and your families will not be forgotten.
Sherri Harrell December 17, 2012 at 04:52 PM
Please know that the entire Nation is hurting for the victims of the terrible tragedy. Having lost a 13 month old baby girl to congenital heart defects, I can still only imagine the terrible pain of losing a child or any family member in this manner. May God bless and keep each of you. I pray that He offers you solace for you grief. Keep their memories fresh in your heart and remember your loved ones and God are always with you. With my deepest and most heart felt sympathy, Sherri Tennessee
carol malcolm December 18, 2012 at 01:48 AM
My heart aches for each and everyone of you.I know god will get u thru this...god bless you all

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