Police pour in to relieve Newtown

Police from Madison and Monroe direct traffic around the Sandy Hook Elementary School memorial site on Christmas Eve. Photo: Dug Begley, Hearst Newspapers

It’s feezing cold, snow’s starting to whip his face, he’s more than 50 miles from home and it’s Christmas Eve, but Officer Tom Bull is right where he wants to be: Directing traffic near the Newtown school shooting memorial.

Between sips of donated coffee, Bull helps visitors — locals, out of towners, anyone trying to get a look at the nation’s outpouring of support — cross the road. Cars file with passengers taking photos of the shrine to 26 lives senselessly lost.

Bull won’t make a dime. All his overtime pay will go to the families of victims, or some other worthwhile cause related to Sandy Hook Elementary, he said.

“We just came to help out,” Bull mumbled, his jacket zipped to his chin, a black cap pulled tight to cover as much of his face and head as possible.

The shields on the sides of their sleeves are different, with various Connecticut place names, some very familiar. Shelton. Bethel. Monroe. Madison. Hartford. Bridgeport. They answered the call in part to show how communities can come together when one suffers a loss. But mostly they came to give colleagues who’ve spent too much time on guard a little holiday break.

Days of work corralling onlookers and well wishers have stretched Newtown’s police resources. Officers needed just a little time to spend tending to their own families, as well as some help just making sure the streets are safe and traffic keeps moving.

There’s been funeral processions to guide, parking lots to cordon off, traffic to direct.

Amelia Ruth, 60, of Trenton, N.J., in Newtown to visit her sister, said seeing the police band together was impressive, and a powerful reminder.

“You don’t realize how strong you are until you need to lift someone up,” Ruth said, looking over a handmade sign quickly fading in the snow. “We’re not going to let someone tear us down. We’re all strong and proud.”

Dug Begley