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The initial panic was reminiscent of Sunday afternoon at St. Rose of Lima Roman Catholic Church in Newtown, when churchgoers had to flee noon Mass after a man phoned in a “threat of violence.” The incident remains under investigation.

The routine task of dropping off children at school took on new meaning for many parents.

“Taking my son to school today had a different spin on it. If I could’ve stood in front of his school in uniform all day, I would have,” said Ken Pires, a deputy with the Franklin County, Mass., Sheriff’s Department.

Like so many others, he came to Newtown to not only pay his respects, but to thank God that his family was spared such an unimaginable loss. Dressed in full uniform, Deputy Pires carried a small teddy bear through the streets of Newtown toward a growing memorial at the community Christmas tree.

He paused for a moment, eyes closed, then slowly knelt and placed the bear beside the thousands of other stuffed animals, toys, candles, handwritten notes and photographs left at the memorial by the people of Newtown and also by those who have come from hours away.

“I’ve got a 9-year-old. It could’ve been my son’s school,” he said, equal measures of anguish and relief in his voice.

Across from Newtown’s Christmas tree memorial stood husband and wife Leigh Perry and Tino Diotalevi, who traveled from nearby Seymour, Conn., to pay tribute to the fallen and to pray with those struggling to cope.

They understood, as everyone in this town does, that the true depth of grief and pain is yet to come for those survivors still in shock.

They held handmade signs, inviting the mourners to stop and seek God’s help.

“You can pray for yourself, but you don’t really get rid of your grief and sorrow until you pray for and with others,” Mrs. Perry said, her thoughts then turning to her reaction on Friday when she first heard news of the shooting.

“When you’re a parent, it hits you right in the gut,” she said. “It just made me sick.”

Sandy Hook remains closed indefinitely, but Newtown’s other schools are set to reopen Tuesday.

Plans are being made to eventually relocate the students and staff of Sandy Hook to another school that had been unused because of consolidation. Sandy Hook’s desks are now being moved to Chalk Hill school in neighboring Monroe, which is expected to be ready for classes within days — though it’s still unclear when Sandy Hook students will resume their schooling.

In the meanwhile, families are focused on healing.

“We’re just now getting ready to talk to our son about who was killed,” said Robert Licata, the father of a student who escaped harm during the shooting. “He’s not even there yet.”

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