Newtown — Stacey Righenzi of Windsor Locks came to visit memorials spread throughout the Sandy Hook village today to honor the 20 children and six adults who perished Friday after a gunman entered the elementary school here.
“I haven’t slept for two days,” Righenzi said as she stopped to view a display of yellow-winged wooden angels adorned with blue and pink balloons on a hillside near the village center, one for each victim.
Andrew Domingos, a Sandy Hook resident and college student who said he once shared a school bus with the shooter, Adam Lanza, said people from all over Connecticut were flooding into Newtown over the weekend to extend their sympathy and mourn with town residents.
“It’s good to have their support,” he said. “Everyone is still in shock that this could happen to our community.”
Domingos, who attended Sandy Hook Elementary School as a child and knew the school psychologist who died in the attack, said the fact that a school shooting happened in a quiet corner of Connecticut shows it could happen anywhere.
“It’s going to take everyone a while to heal,” Domingos said. “Some people will never heal.”
Hundreds of people walked down the brick-lined sidewalks of Sandy Hook to view memorials in the town center and the elementary school prior to President Barack Obama’s appearance at Newtown High School in a private ceremony meant for families of the victims.
One memorial, across from The Toy Tree store and Porco’s Karate Academy, included a huge Christmas tree that dwarfed dozens of candles, teddy bears and flowers laid next to two smaller trees. Families could be seen hugging one another, and one mother tried to console a young child who sobbed uncontrollably.
“Grown men crying is very difficult to see,” said Michele Leahy of Torrington.
At Sandy Hook Elementary School, the mood was even more somber as a display of 28 Christmas trees was accompanied by piles of stuffed toys. Police were not letting anyone onto the school grounds, and intense lighting kept the area brightly illuminated at all times.
“I think it’s particularly hard because it happened around Christmas,” said Erin Mahoney, who came from Glastonbury to pay her respects and said she broke down after first witnessing the scene.
“Twenty kids — it’s unfathomable,” she said.
Three young women, who care for children who attended another elementary school in Newtown, watched Obama’s speech Sunday night from a classroom in the Newtown High School.
They praised Obama for raising the issue of school safety, but Fabrina Decker, Nicole Michalski and Lilia Oberdorfer, all from Germany, questioned whether the president would be able to make headway in any attempt at gun control.
“Here, everyone has guns,” said Michalski. “It’s guns for fun.”
All three said gun control is much stricter in their home country, which in turn allows schools to be more open to the community.
“In Germany, you can just walk into the schools,” said Oberdorfer. “Here it’s actually much more strict.”