20 Aug 2014
66° Clear
Patch Instagram photo by patch

Newtown After Obama's Visit: 'My Heart is Hurting More'

At vigils and at local establishments, residents watch alongside visitors from near and far.

Newtown After Obama's Visit: 'My Heart is Hurting More' Newtown After Obama's Visit: 'My Heart is Hurting More'

"Newtown, you are not alone," President Barack Obama told the town at a Sunday night vigil at Newtown High School.

Obama spoke alongside representatives from a wide range of Newtown's religious institutions, who offered their prayers.

Vicar Rob Morris of Christ the King Lutheran Church asked God to "heal our brokenness, to answer our questions, to replace our doubts with certainty, our anger with peace and our hurt with and healing."

Flowers and Candles in Sandy Hook

As President Obama arrived in Newtown Sunday night, the streets of Sandy Hook were packed with both media and visitors from near and far.

Passerbys dropped flowers, hand-written messages and stuffed animals among dozens of burning candles at the intersection of Church Hill Road and Washington Avenue, in front of and around a giant tree decorated for Christmas.

"I guess I'm just here to lend my support and comfort anyway I can," Camille Wallace, a Queens, NY, resident who came to Connecticut for the day. "You never really know what to do in this situation. I'm trying to talk to whoever I can, pass along a hug."

"It Hasn't Sunk In Completely Yet"

With the President offering condolences to friends and neighbors less than a mile away, patrons at The Inn at Newtown joined millions of others watching a memorial service for the victims of Friday's shooting.

One couple sat arm-in-arm throughout the service. About two dozen people watched Sunday night's memorial service on a pair of televisions.

The room was silent for much of the evening, reactions limited to one-word statements. A woman murmured "Oh my God" as the president read the first names of each child victim.

"It hasn't sunk in completely yet," said a man named Dean. (We respect the decision of several patrons to decline to give their last names.) "It comes in bits and spurts when you realize the depths of what happened."

Dean said his mother is a substitute teacher at Sandy Hook Elementary School, and was scheduled to teach second grade there the day of the shooting. She was moved to a different school at the last minute.

"All of her friends were wiped out," Dean said. "She's going through a period of grieving. There's a certain level of survivor's guilt."

After trying to attend the memorial service at the high school, Dean came to the bar to watch Sunday night. Although not a supporter of the president politically, Dean said he applauded at the end of the president's speech because the decision to visit Newtown was "the right thing to do."

"There was a sense of community in there,” he said. “People were listening, Americans were listening, they were listening to everything.”

"The Emptiness is Huge"

Another patron at the Inn, Jack, sat quietly at the bar. His brother lives in Sandy Hook. Jack spent the day trying to check on his brother -- "He knows somebody who lost somebody," he said -- but was held up by the traffic in the area.

"The sadness is still there," he said as the service ended. "After 9/11, I felt in shock, I felt saddened, and then I felt angry. Here, the sadness has just gotten deeper. These are young children ... I can't fathom children being killed... The sadness... My heart is hurting more."

Jack is a father -- his two children are 6 and 7.

"When I came home Friday, my own children found some styrofoam from Christmas packing and broke it all up as snow. I don't know if you know what it's like to clean up styrofoam. But we just let them go. Because of what happened. And they made the biggest mess."

And here his voice began to falter. 

"But we loved it. We loved every minute of it. But we can enjoy that. What can you say to somebody who's missing somebody? The emptiness is huge. Words can't express it. The community around here has come together. But the emptiness is going to be here for a while."

Share This Article