STRATFORD, CT - DECEMBER 15: Donna Soto (R), mother of Victoria Soto, the first-grade teacher at Sandy Hook Elementary School who was shot and killed while protecting her students, mourns with her daughter Karly (second from right), daughter Jillian (far left) and son Matthew Soto (second from left), at a candlelight vigil at Stratford High School on December 15, 2012 in Stratford, Connecticut. Twenty-six people were shot dead, including twenty children, after a gunman identified as Adam Lanza opened fire in the school. Lanza also reportedly had committed suicide at the scene. A 28th person, believed to be Nancy Lanza was found dead in a house in town, was also believed to have been shot by Adam Lanza. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
In the wake of Friday's unspeakable tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown that left 27 people dead, including 20 children, the region and the nation struggle to make sense of the senselessness, to give meaning where there is none.
The UConn basketball team, which hasn't played a game since Dec. 7 because of exams but is set to play Monday, is also finding it hard to focus on anything other than the victims and their families.
"The first thing I thought of was my niece, who comes to all my games," guard Shabazz Napier said according to the Hartford Courant. "I called my sister and told her I wanted to talk to her, tell her I loved her. It makes you cherish what you have. …
"I still can't believe it happened," Napier continued. "Those families must feel like their whole world was taken away from them. These were children; they're not going to get to live their lives. One of them might have gone on to find a cure for cancer, or something like that, but we've lost that."
Members of the team attended a vigil in Storrs Sunday night.
"It hits home in so many ways," center Tyler Olander said. "You just don't understand what went on, the events that occurred."
Coach Kevin Ollie added: "I don't know if we can help but it would be better than staying here and doing nothing. We want them to know they're in our hearts and on our minds. … This hits home. That could have been any of our kids that got on that bus. I walk my daughter to the bus every day. Twenty families didn't get their son or daughter back. Just go home and love your family, because you never know."
Now the Huskies hope to use basketball as an escape from the real world, even if just for a few hours.
"We're going to try," Napier said. "We want to put joy and happiness in the eyes of as many people that we can. I want to do what I do best, go out and play basketball with the energy and excitement that I can bring."
UConn hosts Maryland Eastern Shore at the XL Center in Hartford Monday at 7 p.m.