Eleven days after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut, which devastated the entire community and much of the country, the town is still hosting its annual Christmas pageant and honoring the lives that were lost.
"The pageant is dedicated to all the kids who were taken from us," Monsignor Bob Weiss of The St Rose of Lima Church in Newtown told The New York Post. "These are little children who loved Christmas.'"
Six-year-old Olivia Engel, who was going to play an angel, and another child not immediately identified that was going to be a shepherd, were among the 20 school children shot dead by lone gunman Adam Lanza on Dec. 14. The 20-year-old shooter first killed his mother at their nearby home before driving down to Sandy Hook and killing 26 people – the children, all aged between six and seven years old, the school's principal and five other staff members. He turned the gun on himself before police arrived on the scene, leaving the nation confused and devastated after yet another mass-scale slaughter of innocents.
Weiss noted that it was important to preserve the Christmas tradition in the face of the tragedy that struck the town
"I was thinking about that this morning – 'You need a little Christmas' - trying to get myself going. We all need a little Christmas."
"The people of Newtown must turn to God when something like this happens," added the Rev. Ignacio Ortigas of St. Rose of Lima. "We believe (the victims) have a new life with God. But we're sad that they're no longer with us."
People that have visited from across the nation have laid out flowers, teddy bears and cards around the various memorials in Newtown. Many residents, however, have reportedly taken down their Christmas decorations in the wake of the tragedy, as they find it hard to think about celebrating at a time like this.
"We felt we had to come here to grieve a little bit," said one visitor to Newtown who came to pay his respects. "You find yourself not sure what to do or what to say, so this kind of helps."
On Sunday, Newtown laid to rest the final three victims of the massacre, after a week of saying goodbye and beginning the process of mending hearts.
"We thank you for the gift of Ana's life," the Rev. Paul Echtenkamp said at the funeral of one of the child victims. "Ana truly was a gift, a gift from God, a gift from Heaven. There are no words in a tragedy like this. Resurrection triumphs over tragedy. Ana believed in Jesus. She is present with the Lord."