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4:16 am
Thu December 20, 2012

Out-Of-Towners Converge On Newtown, Conn.

Originally published on Thu December 20, 2012 10:37 am

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

People all over the world have been expressing their sympathies to the residents of Newtown, Connecticut, trying to find ways to reach out to surviving victims and their families. For some that means personal visits. For others sending gifts or raising money. Craig LeMoult of member station WSHU reports.

CRAIG LEMOULT, BYLINE: I'm looking right now at just a remarkable memorial that's been building up over the last several days at an intersection not far from the Sandy Hook Elementary School. There's just piles of stuffed animals, flowers, wreaths and Christmas decorations and signs. The signs come from towns all over Connecticut and as far away as Poland. People are crowded around, looking at the memorial and dropping things off. Tilein Lopez came with flowers from Simsbury, Connecticut, which is about 50 miles away.

TILEIN LOPEZ: I have kids of my own. And I'm reaching out because I can just imagine how the family is feeling right now at the moment.

LEMOULT: It's been this way since almost immediately after the shooting. The next day, Gary Tice drove four hours from Fulton, New York.

GARY TICE: It just touches your heart. I'm sure there's millions of Americans that would like to be here today to offer some kind of assistance and help but just couldn't.

LEMOULT: The tough part is finding something helpful to do. Wanda Simmons is a school bus driver from West Haven, Connecticut. She and a friend showed up with bottles of water and other refreshments.

WANDA SIMMONS: We're just looking for a place to drop off the donations that we bought and you know, talk to people, hug them, cry with them, whatever it is that needs to be done.

LEMOULT: People have arrived from as far away as Georgia. And for some in the community, it's too much. Some have complained on Facebook, saying there's too many gawkers in town. Newtown resident Elissa Altman says she thinks the community is grateful for the outpouring of support, but...

ELISSA ALTMAN: Now, instead of physically coming here, I think what we would hope people would do would be to make donations to the account for survivors and families of victims.

LEMOULT: There are a number of charities and scholarship funds supporting the town and individual families, and several Facebook pages devoted to the people of Newtown. The post office was getting so many cards and letters of support that they set up a special P.O. box to handle the influx of mail. And there's a basket of free candy for kids at the Newtown General Store. Its owner, Peter Leone, says that started after someone donated free coffee to the town and it got some press coverage. He says the phone started ringing.

PETER LEONE: So much food was going to, like to the first responders, they were starting to get overwhelmed with food themselves. So what we converted to doing was giving gift cards to the first responders.

LEMOULT: He says it's been hard to handle all of the orders. It's not only humans who have arrived to show their support for Newtown, Connecticut.

TIM HETZNER: This is Luther, one of our dogs that we have.

LEMOULT: Luther's a golden retriever and a trained therapy dog. Tim Hetzner of Lutheran Church Charities says first thing Tuesday morning eight goldens, all from the Chicago area, walked into an all-school assembly at Newtown High School and the students cheered.

HETZNER: Dogs are laying down on the ground and the kids are laying right down on the ground with them, with seven or eight hands just petting the dog. And they're talking amongst themselves as they pet the dogs.

LEMOULT: Hetzner tells a story of a little girl from Sandy Hook Elementary School who was petting one of the dogs and she started talking to it. Her mother started crying. She said the girl hadn't spoken since the shooting, three days earlier.

For NPR News, I'm Craig LeMoult. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.