In Shooting Aftermath, Community Continues Seeking Answers

Sunday doesn't begin easily for people in Newtown, Conn. People are still grappling and trying to understand why someone would shoot and kill 20 children and five employees at an elementary school. Authorities are still piecing together what happened as community members begin to grieve.

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Rachel Martin. Today will not be any easier for the people of Newtown, Connecticut. Residents are grappling with the scope of the tragedy there: the death of 20 first-graders and six employees at the hand of a young gunman. Authorities are still piecing together what happened. The gunman's mother was also found dead in her home. State police now say she was not a teacher at the school, contradicting earlier reports. President Obama will head to Newtown later today to meet with families and first responders as community members continue the grieving process. Reporter Craig LeMoult of member station WSHU has more.

CRAIG LEMOULT, BYLINE: The children killed on Friday were all in first grade - eight boys and 12 girls, age six or seven. The chief medical examiner, H. Wayne Carver, says all of the victims were shot multiple times, at least some of them up close.

H. WAYNE CARVER: This probably is the worst I have seen or the worst that I know of any of my colleagues having seen.

LEMOULT: Lieutenant Paul Vance of the Connecticut State Police says law enforcement will be at Sandy Hook Elementary School for several more days as they try to figure out why this happened.

LIEUTENANT PAUL VANCE: Our investigators at the crime scene, the school, and at the secondary crime scene that we discussed where the female was located deceased, did produce some very good evidence in this investigation that our investigators will be able to use in hopefully painting the complete picture as to how and, more importantly, why this occurred.

LEMOULT: The tragedy has shocked this small, quiet community. Hordes of reporters from all over the world descended on Newtown, as well as many people from out of town who just came to offer their condolences. The Sandy Hook neighborhood is a place where people really know one another. And in their own way, each person is trying to work through what happened. Connor Collier wore a Santa hat and sat behind a table with a sign on it that read: Santas for Sandy Hook. He and his friends just got back from college for the holidays.

CONNOR COLLIER: We all feel pretty helpless right now and we wanted to do anything we could. So, we set up a donation. We have a couple tables around town, which people are visiting frequently and really being generous.

LEMOULT: They plan to give the money to a church to distribute for the families of victims. For others, the response came in artistic expressions.

ERIC MILLER: So, these are my angels.

LEMOULT: Eric Miller lives close to the Sandy Hook school. He's an art teacher in New Haven and decided Friday night to construct 27 angels out of plywood. They're a few feet high with white robes and blank faces. He's going to put them in his yard as a tribute to the victims.

MILLER: When it's on the other end of the country or somewhere else, you can kind of take it in and let it go. And this time, you know, really couldn't. I had to do something. So, this was it.

LEMOULT: Tracy Trado came to St. Rose of Lima Church in Newtown to pay her respects. Her son is a first-grader in a different elementary school in town.

TRACY TRADO: My husband is a soccer coach here for the six-year-olds, so we know one young man that was taken. We also know another one on the soccer team. And he's also on my son's baseball team. And I know a little girl. I know another little girl.

LEMOULT: She said she told her son about his friends who survived but hadn't yet managed to tell him about those who didn't. In the midst of all the grief, there was one scene in town that anywhere else would have been a purely joyful event.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMEN: (Singing) Silent night, holy night...

LEMOULT: Members of the St. Rose of Lima congregation gathered for a live rendition of the Nativity scene, standing around a life-size creche as actors played the parts of Mary, Joseph and the Wise Men. Despite all that happened, they came to celebrate Christmas. For NPR News, I'm Craig LeMoult.

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