More than 200 students from Sandy Hook Elementary School were among 400 people from Newtown, who formed a tunnel for New York Giants players to run through as they took the field Sunday for their final home game of the 2012 season.
A little more than two weeks after a 20-year-old gunman stormed into the Connecticut elementary school and killed 26 people, including 20 children, families, classmates and neighbors of the dead were bused to MetLife Stadium and given tickets to the contest by the Giants.
The group of Newtown residents received high-fives and handshakes from the athletes as they entered the field. The students and their families then made a ring around the field, holding hands with Giants and Philadelphia Eagles players during the singing of the National Anthem.
The feeling of having the students on the field prior to the game was “tremendous,” said Giants receiver Victor Cruz. “We wanted to play for them, put a victory on the board for them and put a smile on their faces.”
In the Giants first game after the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Cruz paid tribute to one of the slain children, Jack Pinto. The 6-year-old was such a big Cruz fan that his family decided to bury him in his favorite player’s football jersey.
A few days later, when the Giants returned from their road game against the Atlanta Falcons, Cruz visited the Pinto family in Newtown, telling reporters afterward it was an extremely emotional time for all involved.
Pinto’s family was in attendance, the Giants said.
For Giants linebacker Chase Blackburn, coming to see the game was hopefully the next step in the right direction for a community in mourning.
“Hopefully this gives them some light,” Blackburn said. “Hopefully it shows them God is great, and God is going to hopefully turn this into positives for a lot of their lives.”
The Giants took apart the Eagles, 42-7, but were knocked out of the playoffs when the Chicago Bears beat the Detroit Lions.