Grieving Town Begins Funerals for Sandy Hook Victims

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NEWTOWN, Conn. -- Grieving parents, families and friends will hold the first funerals today for victims of the school shooting that left 20 children and six adults dead.

The funerals come the day after President Barack Obama met with victim's families and spoke at a prayer vigil.

For people in the community, the terrible reality has set in but the pain has only just begun.

Songs, prayers, and memorials are taking place everywhere across Newtown. A steady line of pilgrims walked the hill toward Sandy Hook Elementary School to remember the 26 students and brave teachers who died there.

Please join us in praying for the families and parents in Connecticut who have lost their children and loved ones. Share your prayers on CBN's on Pray for Newtown, special page.

Christmas trees have been decorated for the victims. A memorial of flowers, teddy bears and candles brings visitors to tears.

People come and go, but the sadness never leaves. Yousef Hattar, from Danbury, Conn., walked the hill with his 6-year-old son.

"We don't know why things happen, but they do happen unfortunately," he said. "There is evil, there's an abundance of evil in this world and we have to confront it."

Some gave thanks that their children survived.

"She heard everything, the shots, the doors slamming and people yelling," one parent said of her young daughter.

"I called my friend and we felt so bad saying this, but we were like, 'Thank God it's not our kids' school."

Another resident also thanked God it wasn't "our kids' school."

Just a week before the shootings, children and their families were here for a happy tradition -- the lighting of the town Christmas tree. People who were here say the air was filled with excitement for the coming celebration of the birth of Christ.

"There's face painting and all the stores are open and there's Christmas music and everybody's running around. And then at six o'clock they light the tree and everybody goes, 'Woooo.' Right there," one grieving parent said. "And now there's two donated trees to mourn the dead people. It's pretty bad."

"It's very difficult for this area," another resident said. "We always say this could never happen to us and it's happening to us."

At a prayer vigil Sunday, President Obama offered comfort by reminding residents the nation grieves with them.

"Let the little children come to me, Jesus said, and do not hinder them for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven," he said. "God has called them all home."

Some churches are keeping their doors open 24-hours for prayer. Saint Rose of Lima Catholic Church was hit especially hard. It will handle eight of the funerals. Some of the children, the shooter's mother, and the shooter all attended the church.

For Sunday mass it was standing room only. People came to the church right after learning the news. They continue to come to reflect and heal.

On Sunday, sermons across the region focused on the tragedy.

Pastor Rocky Veach, minister at Connections Church, is uniquely suited for this moment. More than a decade ago he pastored a church near Columbine High School in Colorado when two teens killed 13 people.

"It's an unfortunate privilege, I guess, I've been through two of these things," he said. "But I think in some ways we're prepared to deal with some of the issues that are going to arise over the next week for us."

Emotions of shock, sorrow, and anger continue.

"For the children, innocent children, this never should have happened. How could this happen? Only God knows," Waterbury, Conn., resident Gia Lawe said.

"God can win with any hand that's dealt and so even when a bad hand is dealt God has a way of turning things," Sam Miller, with Community Church, said.

In many ways this idyllic, New England Community will never be the same. The hurt will linger long after the president, grief counselors, and TV cameras leave.

But there is hope that the pain will open hearts to God's love and peace.

"Man, keep us lifted in prayer because God will give us the answers," Pastor Veach asked. "He'll help us tell people what they need to hear and we don't always know what to say, but we know He does so pray for us."

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Jennifer Wishon

Jennifer Wishon

CBN News White House Correspondent

Jennifer Wishon is the White House correspondent for CBN News based in the network’s Washington, D.C. Bureau.  Before taking over the White House beat, Jennifer covered Capitol Hill and other national news, from the economy to the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Follow Jennifer on Twitter @JenniferWishon and "like" her at Facebook.com/JennWishon.