New­town vis­i­tors spread hol­i­day spirit

Well-wish­ers from around the coun­try gather in town.

Austin American-Statesman - - THE SECOND FRONT - By Brock Ver­gakis and Stephen Singer

NEW­TOWN, CONN. — New­town cel­e­brated Christ­mas amid piles of snow-cov­ered teddy bears, long lines of stock­ings and heaps of flow­ers as vol­un­teers manned a 24-hour can­dle­light vigil in me­mory of the 20 chil­dren and six educators gunned down at an ele­men­tary school just 11 days be­fore the hol­i­day.

Well-wish­ers from around the coun­try showed up Christ­mas morn­ing to hang or­na­ments on a se­ries of me­mo­rial Christ­mas trees while po­lice of­fi­cers from around the state took ex­tra shifts to di­rect traf­fic, pa­trol the town and give po­lice here a break.

“It’s a nice thing that they can use us this way,” Ted La­tiak, a po­lice de­tec­tive from Greenwich, Conn., said Christ­mas morn­ing, as he and a fel­low de­tec­tive, each work­ing a half-day shift, came out of a store with bagels and cof­fee for other of­fi­cers.

The ex­pan­sive memo­ri­als through­out town have be­come gath­er­ing places for res­i­dents and vis­i­tors alike. A steady stream of res­i­dents, some in pa­ja­mas, re­lit can­dles that had been ex­tin­guished in an overnight snow storm. Oth­ers took pic­tures, dropped off toys and fought back tears at a huge side­walk me­mo­rial in the cen­ter of New­town’s Sandy Hook sec­tion that is filled with stuffed an­i­mals, po­ems, flow­ers, posters and cards.

In the morn­ing, New­town res­i­dent Joanne Brunetti watched over 26 can­dles that had been lit at mid­night in honor of those slain at Sandy Hook Ele­men­tary School.

“Peo­ple have been won­der­ful to ev­ery­body in New­town whether you were part of what hap­pened or not,” she said. “My thought is if we were all this nice to each other all the time maybe things like this wouldn’t hap­pen.”

At a town hall me­mo­rial, Faith Leonard waved to peo­ple driv­ing by and handed out Christ­mas cook­ies, chil­dren’s gifts and hugs to any­one who needed it.

“I guess my thought was if I could be here help­ing out maybe one per­son would be able to spend more time with their fam­ily or grieve in the way they needed to,” said Leonard, who drove to New­town from Gil­bert, Ariz., to vol­un­teer on Christ­mas morn­ing alone.

Ju­lian Re­vie played “Silent Night” on a pi­ano on the side­walk at the down­town me­mo­rial. Re­vie, from Ot­tawa, Canada, was in the area vis­it­ing at the time of the shoot­ings. He can­celled his plans to go to Aus­tralia, found a pi­ano on­line and chose to spend Christ­mas Eve and Christ­mas Day play­ing for the peo­ple of New­town.

“It was such a mood of re­spect­ful si­lence,” said Re­vie. “But yes­ter­day be­ing Christ­mas Eve and to­day be­ing Christ­mas Day, I thought now it’s time for some Christ­mas carols for the chil­dren.”

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