Obama to attend memorial service for shooting victims
Seeking solace amid overwhelming grief, residents of Newtown flocked to church services and vigils today, struggling to comprehend a tragedy that left so many children dead, even as the national conversation turned sharply toward gun control.
At the pulpit of the St. Rose of Lima Roman Catholic Church in Newtown, the Rev Peter Cameron looked out over the packed pews, which included the husband of a teacher killed in the shooting, and summed up the despair with a question: "How do we rejoice in the face of so much sorrow?"
It is a question that has been asked repeatedly in the two days since a gunman forced his way into Sandy Hook Elementary School here and then sprayed classrooms with bullets, hitting some children as many as 11 times.
All of the children killed in the massacre - 12 girls and eight boys - were first-graders. One girl had just turned 7 on Tuesday. The seven adults killed, including the mother of the gunman, were all women.
The state's chief medical examiner, Dr H. Wayne Carver II, said all of the 20 children and six adults killed at the school had been struck more than once.
He said their wounds were "all over, all over."
"This is a very devastating set of injuries," Dr Carver said at a news briefing yesterday. When he was asked if they had suffered after being hit, he said, "Not for very long."
Condolences have been pouring in from around the world.
In Moscow, Russians piled flowers outside the US embassy. On a beach in Rio de Janeiro, crosses were placed in the sand to honour the dead. And at the Vatican today, Pope Benedict XVI expressed his sorrow and said he was praying for the families of victims.
President Barack Obama is expected to arrive in Newtown later tonight to meet with the families of victims and to join mourners at an evening vigil, the White House announced.
But even before his arrival, there have been calls for the president to take more decisive action. Mayor Michael R Bloomberg of New York, an outspoken proponent of stricter gun regulations, criticised Mr Obama today for failing to act on past promises made in the wake of other tragedies.
"The president should console the country, but he's the commander in chief as well as the consoler in chief, and he calls for action, but he called for action two years ago," Mr Bloomberg said on NBC’s Meet the Press.
He urged Mr Obama to order government agencies to enforce gun laws more aggressively and to press Congress into action, calling it "common sense" to place restrictions on assault weapons with large magazines. He also urged officials to break with the National Rifle Association, calling its influence a "myth."
"It's time for the president to stand up, I think, and lead and tell this country what we should do," Mr Bloomberg said.
"This should be his No. 1 agenda."
Also on Meet the Press, Sen Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said she planned to introduce a bill on the opening day of the next Congress that would limit the sale of assault weapons and restrict high-capacity magazines.
"It can be done," she said.
As families have begun to claim the bodies of lost loved ones, some have sought privacy. Others have spoken out.
Robbie Parker, whose 6-year-old daughter, Emilie, was among the dead, choked back tears as he described her as "bright, creative and very loving." But, he added, "as we move on from what happened here, what happened to so many people, let us not let it turn into something that defines us."
There were reports that at least one funeral would be held today.
Amid the anguish and mourning, other details have begun to emerge about how, but not why, the devastating attack had happened, turning a place where children were supposed to be safe into a national symbol of heartbreak and horror.
Gov Dannel P Malloy of Connecticut said today that the gunman, identified as Adam Lanza (20) had apparently used his weapon to blast through the entrance of the school and committed suicide after he heard police approaching.