Thousands mourn together in Newtown

By Neil Vigdor and John Pirro

In Newtown, the landmarks are distinctly small-town.

A flagpole — now at half-staff.

Edmond Town Hall, where $2 buys admission to second-run movies.

But on Friday night, Newtown resembled Columbine, Colo., Virginia Tech and Aurora, Colo.

St. Rose of Lima Roman Catholic Church became a shrine to the 27 victims of mass shooting earlier in the day at Sandy Hook Elementary School that put this Danbury suburb in the collective prayers of a nation.

At least 2,000 people swarmed the parish for a memorial service and candlelight vigil, many of them with their arms around their children.

“When I think I baptized some of these children,” Msgr. Robert Weiss, the church’s pastor, told the packed sanctuary during a homily.

Worshippers included Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and Sen.-Elect Christopher Murphy, who represents Newtown in the U.S. House.

The crowd outside the parish grew so large that worshippers were instructed to open the church windows for people to hear the service.

Weiss was called to Sandy Hook firehouse to console parents of the children killed at the school.

“This is Newtown. This is a town where families choose to live because it’s safe,” Weiss said.

Chris Daly, 15, stood in the cold outside the church in a daze.

“It’s all in a jumble,” he said.

Chris was in class at Newtown High School when a lock-down was ordered.

“I thought it was a drill, but they said it was real,” he said. “A lot of people skipped classes and cried and talked.”

He wondered if his community could ever recover.

“It’s going to be another world,” Chris said. “Everything is going to be so different.”

Nearby, a mother of a child who attends another school interrupted a television interview to join in a Hail Mary prayer.

Tom Cleary