NEWTOWN, CONNECTICUT —
This town experienced an unfathomable tragedy on Friday and residents woke up Saturday hoping it was just a bad dream. But the realization is sinking in that 27 people, 20 of them mere schoolchildren, were indeed shot dead at Newtown’s Sandy Hook Elementary School.
Residents of Newtown gathered Friday evening for religious services amid a prevailing mood of shock and horror. Alex Ortner is the father of two toddlers and says his heart goes out to the victims.
“At think that at any time like this, people lean on spirituality; they lean on anything to try to understand why something like this happens. I think at this stage now, it’s more of a shocking time than anything else. I don’t think people are really processing it properly yet.”
Six-year-old Emilie Parker, who was gunned down in Connecticut. (AP/Emilie Parker Fund)
The killings shook the picturesque and normally quiet town to its core. Alongside traditional holiday decorations, signs now call on people to be strong and to pray for victims of the tragedy.
Former school bus driver Marsha Moskowitz is in disbelief. She once drove at least two of the victims to school, and remembers driving the gunman when he was in middle school.
“I recall him to be quiet, reserved, and very shy. Pretty much stayed to himself on the bus.”
The killer, identified as 20-year old Adam Lanza, apparently obtained his weapons from the home of his mother, whom he also shot dead before driving in her car to the school. Connecticut State Police spokesman Paul Vance says Lanza forced his way into the building.
"We have established the point of entry. It was -- I can tell you, he was not voluntarily let into the school at all, that he forced his way into the school. But that's as far as we can go on that."
As the nation struggles to understand how the tragedy could have occurred, Lawrence Palinkas, Professor of Social Work at the University of Southern California, notes the reason why so many young Americans have become targets in mass killings is unknown.
“Largely because we still don't have enough data - surprisingly, given the increasing number of events. But generally when helpless populations are victimized like that, it's usually to send a message, and it's unfortunately a message of intense anger.”
As of now, no one knows the reason why Adam Lanza did what he did, and many residents of Newtown fear they never will.