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Community mourns victims of Newtown massacre

A memorial in Newtown, CT Sunday, December 16, 2012.

Credits: MARIE-JOELLE PARENT/QMI AGENCY

MARIE-JOELLE PARENT | QMI AGENCY

NEWTOWN, CT -- The parents of little Ben, as he is known here, moved from New York last year, attracted by the peaceful life of Newtown, a town renowned for its excellent schools.

Ben's father David Wheeler is a writer and actor in local theatre, his mother Francine a music professor.

Kate Katcher, the couple's friend, spoke with them on the phone Sunday.

"The family is devastated," she said. "They are holed up at home, surrounded by family members. Gifts are coming from everywhere."

Benjamin leaves behind his big brother Nate, 9, who attends school at Sandy Hook.

"He tries to get through as best he can in his mind," Katcher said, visibly shaken. "He says his little brother is in heaven with other members of his family who have died."

Benjamin was studying religious education at church. His funeral will take place Thursday.

"He was a wonderful little boy," church leader, Donna Vannaalwijk, said. "Our community is very strong and it will be twice as strong after this tragedy.

"Everybody is still in shock and look to their churches. I think this event will bring many people to faith."

Churches in Newtown and Sandy Hook have remained open since Friday; people are attending at any time of the day and night.

Many therapists are on site and members of the clergy have poured in from across the country.

Sadly, the insecurity of parishioners was shaken once again Sunday afternoon when St. Rose of Lima Catholic church was evacuated during service due to a false bomb threat. The church remained closed the rest of the day.

"Nothing can surprise us after what happened on Friday morning," said Brian Wallace of the Diocese of Richport.

"The church priests are preparing the funerals for eight of their parishioners, which will take place this week."

At Trinity Church, sermon rector Kathleen Adams evoked tears from many. She asked all who had gathered to hug their neighbours.

"Our lives have been changed forever and those who survived will never be the same," she said.

The entrance of the church is filed with a mountain of tissue boxes adorned with children wearing angel wings.

It is this church where the funeral service for six-year-old Madeleine Hsu will take place.

"The parents of little Maddy do not belong to any parish, so now we are their family," Adams said.

Outside of the church, a small group from Providence, R.I., were waiting for their children in front of a pile of teddy bears.

"We made a collection in the streets of our city and we drove so far," Byron Valle said. "This is our way to bring a little comfort."

Earlier in the day, a man stood before the big Christmas tree in the centre of Sandy Hook. At the foot of the tree he placed 20 stuffed bear cubs and out of a cardboard box followed six mothers bear to watch over them.

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