NEWTOWN, Conn. (WUSA) - Imagine the prettiest downtown area you've ever seen, all decked out in festive holiday decorations. Now add dozens of memorials to tiny shooting victims, taken from this world far too early by a gun-toting madman, and that holiday is transformed into an epicenter of sadness.
Our crew of four was dispatched from here in D.C. to go cover what can only be described as one of the worst atrocities that has ever happened inside the borders of these United States: 20 children and seven adults shot and killed for no reason at all.
The pictures you see on TV tell only half of the story. To be there is to experience the sorrow firsthand.
You can feel sadness in the air in a town where it seems like no one is a stranger.
Our live van was set up just blocks away from the school. Down the street from the school is a thirty foot Christmas tree. I can only imagine the scene around the tree in years past: children singing, friends and family enjoying each other's company and shining ornaments adorning the tree.
But this year ... this year is different.
On the tree this evening: remembrances of 20 angelic elementary school children who died horrifically. Under the tree were candles, teddy bears, flags, toys and pictures. But no one will enjoy any of those gifts. They were brought by people from all over the world-a symbol of lives lost.
The town is filled with inspiring signs. One reads, "7 guardians, 20 angels looking over us."
All weekend long, people walked down the street, passing us on the way to the tree with flowers; returning with empty hands and swollen, tear-filled faces.
I spoke with one Dutch family who was on vacation in New York City. Once the news came out about the tragedy, they said they just had to come here to show their support. The town was barely able to handle everyone. Traffic was so congested coming into Sandy Hook, officials began pleading with people to stay away.
The outpouring of support, while well intended, is cold comfort for families whose lives have been changed forever. Christmas will never be the same for these folks. For them, the holiday now becomes synonymous with one of deepest tragedies this world will ever know.
I hope and pray that Newtown finds the strength and courage to find a way to move forward. Until then, the residents should know the world feels their pain along with them.
By Cris Mullen, 9News
Cris Mullen is a producer for 9News