Newtown's name becomes synonymous with bloody infamy
Once loved it for its peace, beauty and great schools, Newtown will now be remembered for the second-worst school massacre in US history
Evil, as the governor described it, seems incompatible with a place as quaint as this.
Newtown, Connecticut was founded 300 years ago - its population is 27,000 and everybody knows everybody. The high street is just a few clothing or gift shops and a couple of family style restaurants.
But its residents have now grudgingly begun the process of accepting the inevitable: that a town many cherished for its serenity and anonymity will be remembered for the second-worst school campus massacre in US history.
Many locals settled in the upmarket New England community, 130 kilometres from New York, to escape the hustle and noise. Now some fear that Friday's shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School claimed the lives of not only 20 children and six adults, but Newtown's way of life as well.
"Evil visited this community today," Connecticut governor Dan Malloy said as the impact of the carnage was still setting in.
The gunman killed 28 people, including his mother and himself.
The worst US campus massacre was the Virginia Tech university slayings in 2007, which left 32 people dead and 17 wounded.
"This wonderful town that we all love for its peace, beauty, the great schools - all of that - has become Columbine," said Julie Maxwell Shull, a Newtown middle school teacher, referring to the Colorado high school that in 1999 became the site of one of the nation's other notorious mass school shootings.
"We came here because it was going to be a good, safe community for our kids," said Catherine Hunyadi, as she and her husband wiped tears from their eyes.
"I had friends growing up who said, 'This is a great town and it should be famous.' Now it's famous for all the wrong reasons," said Michael Klein of Wilton, Connecticut, who attended kindergarten and first grade at the Sandy Hook school.
More than 100 grieving parishioners of Saint Rose of Lima Roman Catholic Church filed past TV camera crews and satellite trucks in the church parking lot to pray and grieve together at mass on Saturday. The previous night, more than 1,200 people attended a service to remember those who died in the shooting.
"We had one little girl who was going to be an angel in our Christmas pageant at Christmas Eve mass. So it's very close to home for me," Monsignor Robert Weiss said, referring to one of the children killed at the school.
"The worst days are ahead. You know, the reality is just starting to settle in into the lives of these parents. I'm sure this morning when they woke up and realised there was an empty bed in their house, it's becoming more and more real to them," Weiss added.
Sandy Hook Elementary School will not reopen with other Newtown schools this week, and students there will be sent to other schools in the district.
"People move to Newtown for the schools, and we feel safe. Now our innocence and our safety has been shattered," public school administrator Janet Robinson said.
The community was particularly loyal to Sandy Hook Elementary School, according to Lisa Berko.
Her son completed primary school there and her daughter babysat for one of the victims of the shooting.
"The school was such a warm environment. Even after my kids had moved on, I used to go there once or twice a year [to take part in school fundraisers]," Berko said.
Berko lives in a neighbourhood not far from where the gunman and his mother lived, where parents feel it is safe enough to let their children to ride bicycles unsupervised.
"It's just so scary to think how often I walked around this neighbourhood, so close to that house, and that he was in there planning this terrible tragedy," she said.
Reuters, Agence France-Presse
Charlotte Bacon, 6
Daniel Barden, 7
Olivia Engel, 6
Josephine Gay, 7
Ana M. Marquez-Greene, 6
Dylan Hockley, 6
Madeleine Hsu, 6
Catherine Hubbard, 6
Chase Kowalski, 7
Jesse Lewis, 6
James Mattioli, 6
Grace McDonnell, 7
Emilie Parker, 6
Jack Pinto, 6
Noah Pozner, 6
Caroline Previdi, 6
Jessica Rekos, 6
Avielle Richman, 6
Benjamin Wheeler, 6
Allison Wyatt, 6
Rachel Davino, 29
Dawn Hochsprung, 47
Anne Marie Murphy, 52
Lauren Rousseau, 30
Mary Sherlach, 56
Victoria Soto, 27