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In Newtown, Sunday services honor victims of tragedy

10:35 AM, Dec 16, 2012   |    comments
A makeshift shrine honors the dead in Newtown, Conn. All over own there are handwritten signs that say "pray for Newtown" and "pray for Sandy Hook." (Photo: Laura Petrecca, USA TODAY)
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Yamiche Alcindor and Martha T. Moore, USA TODAY
NEWTOWN, Conn. -- Sunday dawned here with many grieving residents joining religious services paying homage to the victims of Friday's explosion of violence and death at a local elementary school.

At one site, Saint Rose Catholic Church, a 7:30 a.m. mass drew hundreds of worshipers. Outside the church, which has kept its doors open since the tragedy, signs of the grief gripping Newtown lined the front lawn. A table with dozens of dimly lit candles bearing images of Jesus and the Virgin Mary overlooked mountains of flowers and stuffed animals.

Directly across from the front door more lighted candles have been placed at the feet of a large statue of the Virgin Mary. Small white plastic angels hung in a bush bordering Churchill Road -- which has been filled with traffic for days. A nearby flag remained at half staff.

Msgr. Robert Weiss, the church's leader, has been counseling people since the Friday morning, when 20-year-old Adam Lanza's shooting spree at Sandy Hook Elementary School took the lives of 20 young students and six adults before he turned a gun on himself. On Sunday, several wary police officers were stationed in the parking lot of the church observing those entering the church.

In the lobby, several large white poster boards, filled with signatures, read "With Our Prayer."

Inside the sanctuary, there was silence before mass as several parishioners, some crying and on their knees, waited for the service to start. Dozens of flowers arrangements sat on the altar-- one a heart shaped American flag with a sign, "You will never be forgotten." Among other services:

-- At Trinity Episcopal Church, everyone entering the church was greeted with hugs. And ushers handed out boxes of tissues. Full boxes, not just packets.

-- President Obama was scheduled to arrive for a service Sunday night, another in a series of memorials since the violent explosion at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

USA TODAY

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