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Newtown Holds Prayer Vigil For Shooting Victims


Many residents of Newtown are gathered this evening at St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church for a prayer vigil. NPR's Quil Lawrence is outside the church and he joins us now. And, Quil, what's going on inside the church this evening?

QUIL LAWRENCE, BYLINE: The church is packed with parishioners. I slipped in there over an hour ago as people started to fill up the pews. And when I stepped out right now, I had to slowly push my way through a crowd, which actually spilled through the lobby and out into the parking lot, where some people were holding candles.

You can tell it's a close community. There are a lot of greetings and handshakes and hugs, and some quiet weeping. Everyone here seems to know who's related to the victims and whose kid was in which class and sort of knowing looks toward each other about who might be related to some of the victims. And they started a mass and with reading some scripture and singing with the choir.

SIEGEL: Now, I understand that Monsignor Bob Weiss addressed those gathered there. How would you describe his message to the people of the town?

LAWRENCE: It's very personal. First of all, he welcomed Governor Dan Malloy and Senator Richard Blumenthal who brought a condolence and talked about hardships so close to Christmas. But Monsignor Bob, as the people here call him, he really knew those people. He'd been with them at the scene today with the victims' families and talked about seeing the blood and seeing the hardship firsthand.

He talked about these kids, some of them he baptized. He said he was expecting to be giving them communion soon. And he offered the community just the advice that they should mourn. He said he'd been weeping all day. And then he said that there were new saints in heaven today who would never suffer again.

SIEGEL: Of course, there were mentions of the children. Was there much talk about the teachers or staff who also were killed today?

LAWRENCE: He praised the teachers who were taking care of these children, praised the first responders. He said there were 20 new saints in heaven and he'd also give the adults the benefit of the doubt, which got a laugh even from this very sad gathering.

SIEGEL: Are there any physical memorials that have gone up? Are you seeing, you know, flowers alongside the site or anything like that?

LAWRENCE: Here outside the church there are a lot of people holding up candles. I haven't seen anything else put up yet. The town is decked out in Christmas lights. But still, you can tell a community in shock, that it doesn't really know what to do yet. I have seen some people walking away from the mass, some children, people tired or overcome with grief.

SIEGEL: Well, thank you, Quil. Thanks for telling us about that. NPR's Quil Lawrence who is outside St. Rose of Lima Church in Newtown, Connecticut, where there has been mass this evening, occasion of course by the terrible shooting at the school earlier today. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Robert Siegel
Prior to his retirement, Robert Siegel was the senior host of NPR's award-winning evening newsmagazine All Things Considered. With 40 years of experience working in radio news, Siegel hosted the country's most-listened-to, afternoon-drive-time news radio program and reported on stories and happenings all over the globe, and reported from a variety of locations across Europe, the Middle East, North Africa, and Asia. He signed off in his final broadcast of All Things Considered on January 5, 2018.
Quil Lawrence is a New York-based correspondent for NPR News, covering veterans' issues nationwide. He won a Robert F. Kennedy Award for his coverage of American veterans and a Gracie Award for coverage of female combat veterans. In 2019 Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America honored Quil with its IAVA Salutes Award for Leadership in Journalism.