Obama at Vigil Service: America's First Job is Caring for Our Children [Updated]

President Obama told vigil service attendees on Sunday that America is not doing enough to keep its children safe.

Updated, 12/17, 10:50 a.m.

The following are excerpts from the remaining clergy that spoke at Sunday evening's vigil:

"Oh God, exhaulted and full of compassion, grant perfect peace in your sheltering presence among the holy and the pure to the souls of all our loved ones that perished on that horrible day. They have gone to their eternal home. Master of mercy, we beseech you, remember all of their worthy and righteous deeds that they performed in the land of living and may their souls be bound up in the bond of life eternal. There is no death, just transformation. May they rest in peace." —Rabbi Shaul Praver of Congregation Adath Israel after singing Psalm 46

“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”—Rev. Kathleen E. Adams-Shepard, rector of Trinity Episcopal.

"The Muslim community at Al Hedya in Newtown, Connecticut and throughout the nation, join with our fellow Americans grieving for those who died in this senseless tragedy and praying for them and their families. We ask God to grant those lost those to a special place in paradise and we ask their families to be granted the strength to endure the unendurable. It is in such times of almost unbearable loss that we seek the comfort of our creator, and that artificial divisions of faith fall away to reveal a nation of mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, all united in a desire to bring healing and renewed hope."Muadh Bhavnagarwala of the Al Hedaya Islamic Center
Updated, 9:27 p.m.

As President Barack Obama arrived in Newtown Sunday night, scores of folks, from near and far, gathered in the center of Sandy Hook for a makeshift vigil.

"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."

Wallace was one of the passerbys dropping flowers, hand-written messages and stuffed animals among dozens of burning candles at the intersection of Church Hill Road and Washingtown Avenue, in front of and around a giant tree decorated for Christmas.

David Fuselier, of Southbury, said he and others in the area are "heartbroken." Angela Williams, a paramedic from Philadelphia who came to show compassion for those hurting, shared that sentiment. She was there with her 3-year-old, Alex—one of many youngsters surveying the scene.

"He's asked, 'What's going on?' The best I can come up with is a bad man was hurting and he hurt others," she said. "And we're here to try and help pick up the pieces."

Signs declaring "Together We Are Strong" and "Love Will Get Us Through" were sprinkled throughout the town and village. Along Church Hill Road, where people parked their cars and walked to the memorial, balloons were tied to painted figures of angels planted in the ground.

Updated, 9:10 p.m.

An excerpt from the prayer by Rev. Msgr Robert Weiss, pastor of St. Rose of Lima Church:

"We bring to you 20 new stars in the heavens, 20 new saints, 20 new angels. We bring to you those who risk their lives for us everyday not counting the cost, and we bring to you those who died, those who counsel, those who bless and embrace the confused and the broken. And now in this prayer, we bring to you ourselves, our questions, our doubts, our anger and our hearts, and we pray for the peace, the hope and the renewal of trust that can come only from a God who first conceived us in love and places a hand of compassion on each of our shouldlers even in the most trying times. And so tonight for our community, a community deeply pained, we ask you to heal our brokenness, to answer our questions, to replace our doubts with certainty, our anger with peace and our hurt with healing…"

Updated, 8:59 p.m.

After reading the names of the Sandy Hook victims, Obama said that "for those of us who remain, let us find the strength to carry on and make our country worthy of their memory."

Updated, 8:54 p.m.

Obama spoke with attendees on keeping America's children safe:

"We come to realize that we bear responsibility for every child because we count on everyone to look after ours—that we’re all parents, that they're all our children. This is our first task caring for our children, it’s our first job. If we don’t get that right we don’t get anything right. That’s how as a society we will be judged. And by that measure can we truly say as a nation that we are meeting our obligation... We are not doing enough and we will have to change."

Updated, 8:45 p.m.

An excerpt from President Obama's address to vigil service attendees:

"We gather here in memory of 20 beautiful children and six remarkable adults. They lost their lives in a school that could have been any school in any town of good and decent people. They could be in any town in America. I come to offer the love and prayers of a nation. I'm very mindful that mere words cannot match your depths of sorrow, nor could they heal your wounded hearts....Newtown you are not alone." 

Updated, 8:37 p.m.

An excerpt from Gov. Malloy's speech at the vigil:

"[In spring], when flowers start to come out of the ground and when they rise, I will know that we are in touch with those we have lost in the last few days. We will go on, we will find strength, faith is a gift as is our ability to support one another in our great community. To all of you, I extend my most profound condolences for what you have seen, witnessed and personally experienced. We will move on, but we will never forget..."

Updated, 8:34 p.m.

First Selectwoman Patricia Llodra, who introduced Gov. Dan Malloy, said that Newtown is a "place that loves children above all" and would "not be defined" the Sandy Hook tragedy.

Updated, 8:29 p.m.

"Be though not disconosolate, do not languish, do not sigh, nor wail or weep for agitation and mourning deeply affect their souls in the divine realm."

—John Woodall, Ba'hai Community Leader

Updated 8:21 p.m.

Rev. Jane Sibley of Newtown United Methodist Church offered a prayer for first responders. The following is an excerprt:

"You gave them gifts for their life to serve you. They were asked to pay a high price for all the skills that they have been given, for the strength that they have. You equipped them, you gave them a willingness to learn and train, you gave them a willingness to serve late at night when the call would come in—a willingness to respond when this town needed them the most. Lord we thank you for those that responded, for those thoughout the state that came when the need was given..."

Updated, 8:11 p.m.

An excerpt from a prayer by Rev. Jim Solomon of the New Hope Community Church:

"Dear Lord, as we leave the children that we lost in your hands, we ask that by your grace you would empower us to bless and comfort the children that are still here in our hands. Please be with them in a special way as they grieve the loss of siblings and friends. Life will never be the same, yet we ask that you help these precious little ones to carry the spirits of their lost loved ones in their hearts as they go along living their lives to its fullest according to your will for each of these girls and boys."

Updated, 8:06 p.m.

An excerpt from a prayer by Mell Kawakami, senior pastor of Newtown Methodist Church:

“Each light that sits before us is a light that’s been lost to our world. So many innocents, so many brave...Lord all we can do is throw ourselves upon your tender mercies hoping that you hear our prayers… and so we pray for all of the souls lost and all of the families and friends torn by grief, for in this moment, we are all your children."

Updated, 7:53 p.m.

Rev. Matt Crebbin, minister of Newtown Congregational Church, has opened the interfaith vigil service. He said that the clergy in attendance have chosen to sit in the audience instead of on stage because "we wanted to have a symbolic gesture that we ourselves are with you and among you in these coming days—that we we are all together."

Original Story

An interfaith vigil for families of the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary school shootings, as well as families from the school, is scheduled for 7 p.m. and the line to enter the building is already long.

The Red Cross is in attendance and is handing out blankets and water and stuffed animals, according to Amy Krasowski, of Fairfield and formerly of Sandy Hook.

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[Editor's Note: This article has been updated to correct a quote that was wrongly attributed to Rev. Mossis.]

Judy December 17, 2012 at 06:32 AM
Dear God, Please help the love ones who hearts are broking.And give them strength to heal.Im so sorry for everyone who is suffering,Make God be with all of you.
Vernell Smith December 17, 2012 at 06:33 AM
I was at church services today and the whole congrigation prayed for those families at Newtown CT. That lost their love ones on Friday. What a awful thing to have happened to those little babies. I will continue to pray for each family. I do know that God answers prayers. It's going to take time to heal, but always silently quote the 23 Psalms: It WILL get you through these hard times.
Donna Mastalski December 17, 2012 at 06:39 AM
I can not think of anything worse than having to bury your own child(it should be the other way around). As a mother and grandmother it breaks my heart, knowing the pain that you are going thru, I wish there was a way to make it better, but it will take time, and very long time to lessen your pain. I will pray every night for your children, for the teachers,for all families involved, for your entire community. May God Bless You All.
Concerned Citizen December 17, 2012 at 09:12 AM
Dear Gary Jeanfaivre, Chandra Johnson Greene, Ashley Tarr, Davis Dunavin, Zach Oliva, and Aaron Boyd Thank you for covering the story at the vigil. However, I am sadden to see that you intentionally / selectively ignored both the Jewish and Muslim prayers in your reporting. If you all truly as you claim and describe yourselves in your profiles and bios that you believe and practice fair balanced reporting, then how you magically you all were able to capture almost every single Church representative prayer excerpts and miss two major religions representatives in the service. As I hope that all of you had this as an honest mistake, which I doubt. Because the reports have Six (6) contributors and not even single one of you paid attention to such sensitivity, honesty, and fairness in reporting. Or may be you all selectively chose to do so. I hope the latter not the case. For you convenience, I have included the following links to the two prayers. Jewish Prayer at the Vigil: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bS--_V9Sq-Y Muslim Prayer at the Vigil : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XZDhfC44WN0 Thank you for your time and considerations and I look forward to hear at least from one of you.
GDelgado December 17, 2012 at 09:32 AM
I feel helpless and grief-stricken. I wish I could hold every family member of every person that lost a loved one and remove even a bit of the heavy load they are enduring. God definitely has a special place for all of them. It is our duty for years come, to help (in any way possible) the ones left behind. Whether it is emotionally, financially, or/and even politically to show Newtown, CT that we all care. God Bless the children that are gone and the children that were left behind. (We as adults can at least categorize this in our heads, but children are not developed enough to do so.)
lisa stinellis December 17, 2012 at 09:50 AM
strongly agree
Kristy December 17, 2012 at 11:02 AM
I agree we all do. I have 3 small children my oldest is 12 and my youngest is 7. I couldn't imagine going through what that town is going through our prayers are with you. Morrow Ohio
Alma j. French December 17, 2012 at 01:38 PM
My prayers go out to all of those families that lost a loved one. My heart hurt for you all. I am a retired teacher and don't know what I would have if anyone had attemped to harm any child in my care. Those teachers died as heros in the sight of us observers, But will be sorely missed by those who loved them. i am a mom, grandmother and great-grandmother so i too can feel the hurt, but let us not make a problem of a problem. The Firist Lady is a mother and needs to be close to her children ,at this time ! Who knows what her children are experiencing !! Let us just keep all of the berieved families ,in prayer !!!
Alma j. French December 17, 2012 at 01:47 PM
Catherine , I understand the pain that you are feeling, but don't make it seem as if our First Lady is unconcerned. Her mother might be there, but just like you are holding your childrens very close , that is what she needs to do, and thank God that she still has them !!
otto honig December 17, 2012 at 02:07 PM
g-d does not care what you call him or how often you pray to him.what means the most to g-d is how much you love him. the people who shed a tear for what has hurt us all, those who care most for their fellow man are on top of his list of those who love him the most., may he give his grace to all those who have been hurt by this terrible tragedy.
shelly eaton December 17, 2012 at 02:34 PM
i am a mother of six children i pray for god to give the victims families peace and help them to heal.the first lady being there or not being there does not matter.what matters is the people that have to say goodbye to their babies.may god bless each and every one of the families and the responders give them some peace in their hearts we are all praying for newtown.
Carolyn Thurman December 17, 2012 at 03:25 PM
Our children are gifts from God and our schools are sacred places because they hold our hope for the future through our children. As president Obama said "We must do better." i think we must address the difficult questions of mental health and guns in America. My daughter wa an occupational therapist and was killed in 2003 at an elementary school. She had stayed late at school to work on the next weeks lessons. Faith and the support of others can help even when there aren't answers and you can't find the strength to pray. God help all the people of Newtown and God help our country.
Philip Franklin December 17, 2012 at 03:46 PM
sad, at a time like this to attack and condemn, I pray for you as well.
S.Q. December 17, 2012 at 03:50 PM
I would like to say that I heard both the Jewish chanted/sung prayer and the Muslim one, and they provided the most transcendent moments of beauty in the entire vigil. I am a very strongly believing Christian, but I still say this. I would like to express my thanks to those men (and young boy) who said/sang those prayers.
Chandra Johnson Greene December 17, 2012 at 03:55 PM
Thank you for your comment, Concerned Citizen. It was not my intention at all to specifically omit excerpts from the Jewish and Muslim prayers and I apologize for not including them earlier. I've posted excerpts of the three remaining prayers from last night's service to the top of the article. Thanks again. —CJG
taxpayer December 17, 2012 at 04:00 PM
Others were missing as well. Not everyone that spoke is included in the article. Lets not make this into something please.
alski December 17, 2012 at 04:01 PM
From New Lenox Illinois you are in our thoughts and prayers
Thomas Jenkins December 17, 2012 at 04:31 PM
i am a job corps student in san marcos texas and me and some other students did a moment of scilence for all the victims of the shooting and to all of the family i would like to say GOD BLESS ALL
Pamela Hoffman December 17, 2012 at 06:48 PM
Every mother in America broke and cried on Friday morning when we heard the news. I know I did. There is nothing that can be said in this terrible, time of grief. I think it is best to remember they were angels when they were loaned to us by God, and they are back with him now. My heart and tears go out to the loss of these families and these children, as well as the Newtown community. God bless and be with you all.
Joan December 17, 2012 at 07:10 PM
Why do you think the First Lady's presence is needed when the President is already there speaking as the leader of this country and as a father. This whole country is in mourning, including the First Lady. You should rethink your comment.
Melissa Cohan December 17, 2012 at 07:42 PM
I pray for the families of this tragedy. There is so much grief, but so many people want to help pick up the pieces. Just keep your loved ones close and tell them everyday. The community will heal, one small piece at a time.
Aurora, CO December 17, 2012 at 10:22 PM
The tragic loss of all these innocent lives leaves me sick and in tears, as a mother of two boys, I can't even comprehend the pain of the loss of so many. My heart is full of grief and also anger, I know it doesn't change anything but I can't help the rage of the audacity of people to hurt each other. People, we can do so much better, with our children, with ourselves, with life. God tells us, it is not what we have in this world that measures our success but what we leave behind, how others remember us. We must take back our values, do not be afraid to stand up and say "this is not right", we cannot live in silence to the disrespect and hate and fear that we live with every day any longer. We must come together and as a people, do what is right. I pray for those left behind, and I pray for the souls of the innocent. That they reach the glory and light of our Savior and join Him in his Kingdom. Amen.
kirsty howie December 18, 2012 at 12:19 AM
Such as shame, awful tradgey my heart goes out to the families. im a mother of two small children n can even begin to imagine the pain the parents/families and the community are experiencing at this sad time love and prayers from england (uk)
Beatrice December 18, 2012 at 01:50 AM
My heart aches for all those beautiful babies that lost their lives, and the pain their parents and family members are going through. Dear God, please be with them now and always. May the Lord be with all the residents of Newtown.
Larry Lewis December 18, 2012 at 07:27 AM
We in Seattle are with you, Newtown. We have had our own experiences with soulless violence. You have had every parent's nightmare. I know I cannot truly understand the horror and pain, but even the pale shadow I've been feeling draws me to hug and hold my 4th-grader more often and more tightly. I won't presume to suggest any silver lining just now, but I wish you all the love and support you need. When I was six I was at Hatton Elementary School up in Southington, so this feels too close, even from out here.
Ken Stone December 18, 2012 at 10:13 AM
San Diego felt a hint your pain in 1984, when a man named James Huberty gunned down infants, teens and old people at a local McDonald's. These and other local horrors were noted in our Newtown coverage: http://patch.com/A-0v1J Later that day, I interviewed the owners of a "tactical" firearms shop a block from the elementary school that my son once attended. The owners — both cops — insist they are extremely responsible. But they still argue for the right to bear assault arms: http://patch.com/A-0wng
Francesca DATTILO December 19, 2012 at 12:18 AM
She has little kids too, if you forgot. I don't understand why people have to be so mean. Stop be so judgmental and so bitter.
Kim December 19, 2012 at 11:02 AM
By far one of the sadest moments in USA. Your pain is unbearable, unbelievable, and unimaginable. I'm so very very sorry for the children who left this earth too soon. It's not fair!!! And words can not begin to help the parents that are morning their children. There must be a reason right? Everything happens for a reason?? It's faith? It was meant to be? I just can't wrap my head around this. My heart aches.....ACHES for these families. Their reality is every parents nightmare and I send my prayers, my anger, my total disgust, my tears, my broken heart and my deep deep sorrow and sympathy for every parent, brother, sister, grandparent, uncle, aunt, daughter, son, cousins, in laws, and friends. Until you see them again....hang in there and trust in our lord. God bless. I too have had sorrow and a loss this year, an amazing father, husband and family man. But losing a child is a hellish nightmare. I'm sorry.
Kim December 19, 2012 at 11:04 AM
From Elko Nevada. Our sympathy and prayers are with you.
Laurie Burnworth December 25, 2012 at 04:40 AM
Words cannot begin to express the deep heartache so very many people across the nation--& even the world!-- feel for you, dear Sandy Hook community! We feel your pain & grieve your loss with you. I hope somehow it helps you to know others DO care so much for you! May God bless you with His strength, peace & hope until one day we are all together with our loved ones who've gone before us in His Kingdom which has no end! "No more sorrow, no more tears." With love from Byron, IL


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