NEWTOWN, Conn. (AP) _ This normally quiet town has been flooded by reporters, caregivers and well-wishers from out of town who have come to report Friday’s mass school shooting, offer counseling to residents and pay their respects at makeshift memorials.
The resulting crush has clogged streets with traffic.
Church Hill Road from the flagpole in the center of town to the village of Sandy Hook _ nearly two miles _ was at times Monday a long ribbon of cars and trucks that barely moved.
At a makeshift memorial on the corner of Washington Avenue and Church Hill Road, reporters often outnumbered mourners who came to pay tribute to the 20 children and six adults who died at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
The air was scented with hundreds of flowers. Candles flickered in the light drizzle, and sodden plush toys were piled under an evergreen tree, spilling out along the sidewalk near the edge of the Pootatuck River.
Reporters from across the globe said people in their home countries were devastated by news of the Connecticut shooting.
Mathieu Coache of BFM TV in France said this tragedy reminds the French of a school shooting in Toulouse in March. He and four others have been covering the massacre non-stop.
Emma Dallimore of Channel 10 Australia said the magnitude and horror of Newtown’s tragedy has been felt around the world.
She said her family is shattered by what happened here.
“People around the world are crying for this little town,” Dallimore said.
People in Spain are surprised that Americans would allow anyone to buy military-style weapons, according to Lorenzo Milay, Washington, D.C., bureau chief for Spain’s national public TV station.
“There’s so many paradoxes from our point of view,” Milay said. “For Nancy Lanza (the mother of shooter Adam Lanza), it doesn’t look like she was safer having so many guns at home.”
Police have said Adam Lanza shot his mother at their home, then took her guns and drove three miles to the school. He shot his way into the building, then opened fire in the lobby and two first-grade classrooms, killing 26.
Many visitors from across Connecticut said they were drawn to Newtown because they feel connected to the tragedy, even though they don’t personally know any of the victims.
“We’re here because we feel so bad about this,” said Rony Visuma of Bristol, a father of three. “I can’t believe this happened in Connecticut.”
Sharon Walker, of the Bronx, N.Y., said she felt compelled to come as the mother of a nine-year-old girl.
“I just wanted to feel the spirit of the people of the community … I feel like it happened to my child,” Walker said.
Just up the road, at the entrance to Sandy Hook Elementary, people spoke in hushed voices and held tightly to each other as they put ornaments and decorations on 26 evergreen trees that lined
Closer to the site of the tragedy, grief seemed a tangible presence, mingling among a few dozen mourners who filtered by.
Despite the throng of people, the scene was oddly quiet until Angel Jones of St. Petersburg, Fla., broke into an emotional rendition of “Oh Come All Ye Faithful.”
“God sent me to show my respect,” Jones said.
Mihail Gladuhuv, a truck driver from Toronto, said his nine-year-old daughter asked him to stop in Newtown and place a teddy bear at the memorial on the way to a drop-off in Middlebury.
He left his truck on the highway and walked into town.
Tim Hetzner, president of Lutheran Church Charities in Addison, Ill., said he was invited by Christ the King Lutheran Church in Newtown. He brought 10 golden retrievers to help comfort victims.
He said dogs are good to talk to because they will always keep your thoughts confidential.
‘`When people pet a dog, it reduces their blood pressure,” Hetzner said. “It’s kind of like a teddy bear, only a live one.”
Several members of the New Haven University club lacrosse team came to play with Newtown children Monday morning at Newtown Youth Academy. The dogs also paid a visit.
Adam Howe, of Springfield, Mass., said the children were withdrawn at first, but eventually lit up and played with the young men.
“It’s all right to be a kid, even though their innocence is taken,” said team member Giovanni Zaino.
Raymond Giunta, a chaplain from We Care Ministries based in Washington, D.C., is no stranger to school shootings.
He’s traveled all over the country to provide compassionate care to people in times of crisis, including Virginia Tech and Columbine.
He said he came Saturday morning, and has been listening to children and helping families understand the grief process.
Giunta said he’d never seen Christmas tree memorials in his 25 years of emergency response.
“These memorials demonstrate that (the victims) won’t be forgotten,” Giunta said.
Newtown residents had mixed reactions to the onslaught of outsiders.
Several people said they appreciate the love and support, but are looking forward to having their quaint little town to themselves again.
‘`Very soon, we’re just ready for it to be our quiet town,” said Cathy Breen Austermann, who came to the memorial with her seven-year-old daughter.
She said she hopes there’s never so much traffic in Sandy Hook again, unless there’s a big party.
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)