| NEWTOWN, Conn.
NEWTOWN, Conn. Dec 25 Christmas has helped the
grieving Connecticut town of Newtown cope a little better with
the shooting tragedy earlier this month, and allowed some people
to finally smile.
Though more somber than a typical Christmas, the holiday has
given Newtown a respite from the mourning. All the funerals for
the victims have concluded.
"We're getting through this with our faith and our prayer.
People are smiling a little more now," said John Barry, owner of
an information technology staffing company. "The week was so
horrible. Now it's time to celebrate Christmas."
This largely Christian town was shaken on the morning of
Dec. 14, when a 20-year-old gunman armed with a military-style
assault rifle shot dead 20 children aged 6 and 7 and six adults
at Sandy Hook Elementary School. It was the second deadliest
school shooting in U.S. history.
Little is known about the shooter, Adam Lanza, who also
killed his mother before the rampage and later himself to create
a death toll of 28 in a tragedy that has revitalized the debate
over U.S. gun control laws.
The sadness has moved some to act. Makeshift monuments to
the dead have popped up all over town, funds have been raised,
and many visitors have made a pilgrimage to Newtown, offering
Husband and wife Dan and Michelle McAloon of Newtown decided
to go Christmas caroling this year for the first time, gathering
other families and children to roam a neighborhood where the
families of three victims live.
"We were just spreading some cheer, trying to make the
situation a little better," Michelle McAloon said.
"They all smiled, and they all cried a little," she said of
the victims' families.
"Everybody said we are doing it again next year," Dan
McAloon said of the carolers. "It's going to become a
The McAloons and Barry were among those in an overflow crowd
that attended Christmas Eve Mass on Monday night at Saint Rose
of Lima Roman Catholic Church, which held its biggest service at
the high school auditorium.
Nine families from the parish lost someone in the shooting,
and at least four of those families came to the big Christmas
Eve Mass, Monsignor Robert Weiss said.
"Everything is just a lot more somber. Some people are just
going through the motions because it's Christmas. Others are
trying to make it special," Weiss said after the service.
"There is reason to celebrate. Hopefully when people start
to see their extended families, or people from outside of
Newtown, or even go out of town, they will be able to. You can't
get away from it in this town," he said.
Christmas Eve Mass featured a pageant that told the
Christian story of Jesus' birth. One of the more poignant
moments came when people applauded a group of two dozen little
girls dressed as angels. They all knew shooting victim Olivia
Engel, 6, was supposed to be among them.
"I highly recommend that before you rip open those gifts,
say a prayer for those children," Weiss told parishioners. "Then
give your own children a hug."