Faced with an unfathomable -- and inexplicable -- tragedy that left 20 first-graders and six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown dead last Friday, words to describe the massacre could scarcely convey the depth of shock and sorrow the incident provoked.
Yet words give voice to human grief and fears, condolences and concerns, hope and healing. With these words, Westport mourned with Newtown, searched for answers and resolved to regain hope:
"It's so close it could be us. ... It could be any community in this country. But to have it occur in Fairfield County to a town that I know, and I'm sure many of you know and visited many times, it's unbelievable."
First Selectman Gordon Joseloff, at Sunday afternoon interfaith vigil
"That also makes it personal. I love my grandkids, and I love you and believe it is my responsibility to keep you safe. ... We have a security plan, we practice drills, and we hope that we will all do what we have to do if the need ever arises. Such an incident is precisely why we have a security plan. It is why we keep our doors locked and why we have video cameras throughout our building. ... We cannot and will not turn Staples into a fortress. First of all, it would not guarantee safety, and secondly it would not be an environment in which we would want to live each day. That is not the solution for us. Our best response has to be to continue caring about one another; to reach out in friendship to those who seem not able to make connections and friends at Staples; to acknowledge our responsibility to each other."
"It's a little too close to home in many ways ... To imagine having to make that ride to your school with that news, wondering if your child is alive, it's just awful. Anybody who is a parent, their heart is breaking. You react as a parent, first and foremost."
Julie Spivack, mother of three boys, at Sunday interfaith vigil
"When I heard on the news that it was a quaint New England town, it hit me hard, because they could be talking about us. I think the connection is there -- they're just like us. We feel it."
Maija Krasts, at Sunday interfaith vigil
"Our hearts are broken today. There's no sense, no logic, to violence. It yanks the rug out from underneath our feet. It leaves us disoriented and breathless. We look for our loved ones. We hug our children tighter. We weep. In the midst of today's pain and confusion, I've been holding on to the promise, so vivid during this Advent season, that God shows up right in the middle of the dark and despair. Born in a barn, then carried to Egypt with his parents to escape another slaughter of innocents, God-in-Christ has been to the painful, ugly places. So today, I know: God's heart is breaking, too. God is weeping -- for the children, for teachers and first responders, for the shooter. God weeps with us, abides with us, holds together all the broken pieces. Tonight, I pray that God will wrap us in love and give us the strength to lend comfort to those who are lost in grief."
Rev. Alison Patton, senior minister, Saugatuck Congregational Church
"This weekend we shall display our colors in the sanctuary and keep our Pascal Candle burning all in memory of the 20 children and their teachers who were killed Friday morning. Our hearts join with our President, Governor, the Sandy Hook School community, parents, siblings, grandparents, and Msgr. Robert Weiss, pastor of St. Rose, Newtown, who baptized many of the children. We shall pray at each Mass this weekend and the parish will, in due time, communicate with the Sand Hook School community, the families of the deceased and St. Rose Parish (in our Diocese) expressing our sympathy and promising our continued prayers. May their good and innocent souls rest in peace."
"When faced with tragedy, people of Israel sing a very special song, very simple: Lo naf'sik lashir. No matter what we are faced with, no matter how painful the tragedy, lo naf'sik lashir, that we will not stop singing. For the sake of our community, for the sake of this country, for the sake of the people of Newtown, may we never stop singing."
Jeremy Wiederhorn, rabbi of the Conservative Synagogue, at Sunday afternoon interfaith vigil