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‘Christmas will never be same’ in Newtown, Conn.

Messages from afar, visitors share in grief

  • Members of the Rutter family of Sandy Hook, Conn., embrace early Christmas morning as they stand near memorials by the Sandy Hook firehouse in Newtown, Conn.,Tuesday, Dec. 25, 2012. People continue to visit memorials after gunman Adam Lanza walked into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., Dec. 14, and opened fire, killing 26, including 20 children, before killing himself.  (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)Members of the Rutter family of Sandy Hook, Conn., embrace early Christmas morning as they stand near memorials by the Sandy Hook firehouse in Newtown, Conn.,Tuesday, Dec. 25, 2012. People continue to visit memorials after gunman Adam Lanza walked into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., Dec. 14, and opened fire, killing 26, including 20 children, before killing himself. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)
  • Portraits of slain students and teachers hang from a tree at a memorial in Newtown, Conn. Tuesday, Dec. 25, 2012. People continue to visit memorials in the wake of the shootings after gunman Adam Lanza walked into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., Dec. 14, and opened fire, killing 26, including 20 children, before killing himself.  (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)Portraits of slain students and teachers hang from a tree at a memorial in Newtown, Conn. Tuesday, Dec. 25, 2012. People continue to visit memorials in the wake of the shootings after gunman Adam Lanza walked into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., Dec. 14, and opened fire, killing 26, including 20 children, before killing himself. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)
  • Among a memorial to the Sandy Hook Elementary students and teachers, Julian Revie of Ottawa, Canada, plays Christmas music on a piano he helped bring to the memorial, Tuesday, Dec. 25, 2012 in Newtown, Conn. People continue to visit memorials after gunman Adam Lanza walked into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., Dec. 14, and opened fire, killing 26, including 20 children, before killing himself. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)Among a memorial to the Sandy Hook Elementary students and teachers, Julian Revie of Ottawa, Canada, plays Christmas music on a piano he helped bring to the memorial, Tuesday, Dec. 25, 2012 in Newtown, Conn. People continue to visit memorials after gunman Adam Lanza walked into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., Dec. 14, and opened fire, killing 26, including 20 children, before killing himself. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)
  • From left, Town of Ridgefield, Conn., Det. Durling, and Town of Greenwich, Conn., Officer Rivera stand near a memorial in Newtown, Conn. Tuesday, Dec. 25, 2012. Regional police agencies arrived in Newtown to relieve the local police force for the Christmas holiday. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)From left, Town of Ridgefield, Conn., Det. Durling, and Town of Greenwich, Conn., Officer Rivera stand near a memorial in Newtown, Conn. Tuesday, Dec. 25, 2012. Regional police agencies arrived in Newtown to relieve the local police force for the Christmas holiday. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)
  • A light coating of snow blankets Newtown, Conn. Tuesday, Dec. 25, 2012. The town is dealing with the aftermath following gunman Adam Lanza's shooting spree at the Sandy Hook Elementary School on Friday, Dec. 14, that killed 26, including 20 children, before he killed himself.  (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)A light coating of snow blankets Newtown, Conn. Tuesday, Dec. 25, 2012. The town is dealing with the aftermath following gunman Adam Lanza's shooting spree at the Sandy Hook Elementary School on Friday, Dec. 14, that killed 26, including 20 children, before he killed himself. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)
  • Angel pendants hang from a snow-covered string in Newtown, Conn. Tuesday, Dec. 25, 2012. People continue to visit memorials in the wake of the shootings after gunman Adam Lanza walked into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., Dec. 14, and opened fire, killing 26, including 20 children, before killing himself.  (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)Angel pendants hang from a snow-covered string in Newtown, Conn. Tuesday, Dec. 25, 2012. People continue to visit memorials in the wake of the shootings after gunman Adam Lanza walked into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., Dec. 14, and opened fire, killing 26, including 20 children, before killing himself. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)
  • A member of the Rutter family of Sandy Hook, Conn., walks past candles and other offerings that make up a memorial in Newtown, Conn., Tuesday, Dec. 25, 2012. People continue to visit memorials  after gunman Adam Lanza walked into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Friday, Dec. 14, and opened fire, killing 26, including 20 children, before killing himself. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)A member of the Rutter family of Sandy Hook, Conn., walks past candles and other offerings that make up a memorial in Newtown, Conn., Tuesday, Dec. 25, 2012. People continue to visit memorials after gunman Adam Lanza walked into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Friday, Dec. 14, and opened fire, killing 26, including 20 children, before killing himself. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)
  • Snow-covered stuffed animals with photos attached sit at a memorial in Newtown, Conn. Tuesday, Dec. 25, 2012. People continue to visit memorials after gunman Adam Lanza walked into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Friday, Dec. 14, and opened fire, killing 26, including 20 children, before killing himself. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)Snow-covered stuffed animals with photos attached sit at a memorial in Newtown, Conn. Tuesday, Dec. 25, 2012. People continue to visit memorials after gunman Adam Lanza walked into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Friday, Dec. 14, and opened fire, killing 26, including 20 children, before killing himself. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)
  • Rosaries and other religious items hang from a memorial in Newtown, Conn. Tuesday, Dec. 25, 2012. People continue to visit memorials in the wake of the shootings after gunman Adam Lanza walked into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Friday, Dec. 14, and opened fire, killing 26, including 20 children, before killing himself. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)Rosaries and other religious items hang from a memorial in Newtown, Conn. Tuesday, Dec. 25, 2012. People continue to visit memorials in the wake of the shootings after gunman Adam Lanza walked into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Friday, Dec. 14, and opened fire, killing 26, including 20 children, before killing himself. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)
  • In this Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2012 file photo, Christmas stockings with the names of shooting victims hang from railing near a makeshift memorial near the town Christmas tree in the Sandy Hook village of Newtown, Conn. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez, File)In this Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2012 file photo, Christmas stockings with the names of shooting victims hang from railing near a makeshift memorial near the town Christmas tree in the Sandy Hook village of Newtown, Conn. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez, File)
  • Stockings and angel silhouettes honoring Sandy Hook Elementary School students and teachers line an iron fence in Newtown, Conn., Tuesday, Dec. 25, 2012. People continue to visit memorials after gunman Adam Lanza walked into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, and opened fire, killing 26, including 20 children, before killing himself. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)Stockings and angel silhouettes honoring Sandy Hook Elementary School students and teachers line an iron fence in Newtown, Conn., Tuesday, Dec. 25, 2012. People continue to visit memorials after gunman Adam Lanza walked into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, and opened fire, killing 26, including 20 children, before killing himself. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)
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NEWTOWN, Conn. — People drawn to Newtown to share in its mourning brought cards and handmade snowflakes to town Monday while residents prepared to observe Christmas less than two weeks after a gunman killed 20 children and six educators at an elementary school.

On Christmas Eve, residents planned to light luminaries outside their homes in memory of the victims. Tiny empty Christmas stockings with the victims' names on them hung from trees in the neighborhood where the children were shot.

"We know that they'll feel loved. They'll feel that somebody actually cares," said Treyvon Smalls, a 15-year-old from a few towns away who arrived at town hall with hundreds of cards and paper snowflakes collected from around the state. Organizers said they wanted to let the families of victims know they are not alone while also giving Connecticut children a chance to express their feelings about the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Police say 20-year-old Adam Lanza killed his mother in her bed before his Dec. 14 rampage and committed suicide as he heard officers arriving. Authorities have yet to give a theory about his motive.

While the grief is still fresh, some residents are urging political activism in the wake of the tragedy. A grass-roots group called Newtown United has been meeting at the library to talk about issues ranging from gun control, to increasing mental health services to the types of memorials that could be erected for the victims. Some clergy members have said they also intend to push for change.

"We seek not to be the town of tragedy," said Rabbi Shaul Praver of Congregation Adath Israel. "But, we seek to be the town where all the great changes started."

Since the shooting, messages similar to the ones delivered Monday have arrived from around the world. People have donated toys, books, money and more. A United Way fund, one of many, has collected $3 million. People have given nearly $500,000 to a memorial scholarship fund at the University of Connecticut.

In the center of Newtown's Sandy Hook section Monday, a steady stream of residents and out-of-towners snapped pictures, lit candles and dropped off children's gifts at an expansive memorial filled with stuffed animals, poems, flowers, posters and cards.

"All the families who lost those little kids, Christmas will never be the same," said Philippe Poncet, a Newtown resident originally from France. "Everybody across the world is trying to share the tragedy with our community here."

Richard Scinto, a deacon at St. Rose of Lima Roman Catholic Church, which was attended by eight children killed in the massacre, said the church's pastor, the Rev. Robert Weiss, used several eulogies this week to tell his congregation to get angry and take action against what some consider is a culture of gun violence in the country.

Father Praver and Mr. Scinto said they are not opposed to hunting or having police in schools, but both said something must be done to change what has become a culture of violence in the United States.

"These were his mother's guns," Mr. Scinto said. "Why would anyone want an assault rifle as part of a private citizen collection?"

A mediator who worked with Adam Lanza's parents during their divorce has said Lanza was diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome, an autism-like disorder that is not associated with violence. It is not known whether he had other mental health issues. The guns used in the shooting had been purchased legally by his mother, Nancy Lanza, a gun enthusiast.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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