Newtown Comes Together to Remember Victims

Prayer services are organized in Newtown and across the state.

By Bob Connors
|  Saturday, Dec 15, 2012  |  Updated 4:56 AM EDT
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Newtown Comes Together to Remember Victims

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NEWTOWN, CT - DECEMBER 14: Mourners gather inside the St. Rose of Lima Roman Catholic Church at a vigil service for victims of the Sandy Hook School shooting December 14, 2012 in Newtown, Connecticut. Twenty-seven people are dead, including 20 children, after a gunman identified as Adam Lanza in news reports opened fire in the school. Lanza also reportedly died at the scene. (Photo by Andrew Gombert-Pool/Getty Images)

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Just hours after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, the town will begin to come together to begin the healing process.

A special service was held Friday night at St. Rose of Lima Church in Newtown. The church pastor, Monsignor Robert Weiss, already had spent much of the day with the families affected by the tragedy.

The vigil brought out hundreds of community members, including some parents who were struggling with mixed emotions after their own children survived the massacre.

With the church, located at 46 Church Hill Road, filled to capacity, hundreds spilled outside, some of them holding hands in circles and saying prayers. Others lit prayer candles and sang "Silent Night."

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy was among the speakers at the service inside the St. Rose of Lima Roman Catholic church.

"Many of us today and in the coming days will rely on what we have been taught and what we believe, that there is faith for a reason," Malloy said.

At the vigil, the priest said the altar holds 26 candles, all of which were lit in memory of the victims. Lyrics of the last hymn of the ceremony rang out: "I will raise him up on eagle's wings."

After receiving word of the shooting, Tracy Hoekenga said at the vigil that she was paralyzed with fear for her two boys, fourth-grader C.J. and second grader Matthew.

"I couldn't breathe. It's indescribable. For a half an hour, 45 minutes, I had no idea if my kids were OK," she said.

She said she was wrestling with many emotions as she attended the vigil.

A second prayer service also was scheduled at 7 p.m. Friday at Trinity Episcopal Church on Main Street in Newtown. The service was to contain prayers and music.

Vigils were also planned in other cities and towns Friday.

A candlelight vigil was held in Bushnell Park in Hartford. Winterfest, which was scheduled for the park, was closed in the wake of the shootings. People gathered by the carousel in Bushnell Park at 7 p.m.

In Rocky Hill, a town-wide prayer vigil was held at the Rocky Hill Congregational Church at 805 Old Main Street.

An ecumenical service was to be held at the First Baptist Church on Branford Green Friday at 7:30 p.m.

Norwich will hold a prayer vigil Saturday at the Beth Jacob Synagogue on New London Turnpike. The time of the vigil has not been set.

In Watertown, people are being asked to gather at the Town Gazebo at 7 p,m. Saturday for a prayer vigil.  The gazebo is located at the corner of Route 6 and Route 63.

Waterbury Mayor Neil O'Leary asked City residents to join him at a special memorial service on Tuesday.  The service will be held at 1 p.m. at the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception on the Waterbury Green.

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