NEWTOWN’S children were showered with gifts – tens of thousands of teddy bears, Barbie dolls, footballs and board games – and those are only some of the tokens of support from around the world for the town in mourning.
Just over a week ago, 20 children and six school employees were gunned down at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Twenty-year-old Adam Lanza killed his mother, attacked the school, then killed himself. Police do not know what set off the massacre.
Days before Christmas, funerals were still being held, the last of those whose schedules were made public, according to the Connecticut Funeral Directors Association.
The United Way of Western Connecticut said the official fund for donations had reached $2.8 million (£1.73m). Others sent envelopes stuffed with cash to pay for coffee at the general store, and a shipment of cupcakes arrived from a bakery in Beverly Hills, California.
The postal service reported a six-fold increase in mail in the town and set up a unique post office box to handle it. The parcels come decorated with rainbows and hearts drawn by schoolchildren.
Some letters arrived in packs of 26 envelopes – one for each family of the children and staff killed or addressed to the “First Responders” or just “The People of Newtown”. One card arrived from Georgia addressed to “The families of six amazing women and 20 beloved angels”. Many contained cheques.
At the town hall building, the basement resembled a toy store, with piles of stuffed toys, dolls, games and other fun gifts. All the toys were inspected and examined by bomb-sniffing dogs before being sorted and put on card tables. The children could choose whatever they wanted.
Jugglers entertained the children, a dunk tank was set up outside and the crowd of several hundred parents and children sang an enthusiastic rendition of “Happy Birthday” to one child.
Newtown resident Amy Mangold, director of the local parks and recreation department, attended with her 12-year-old daughter, Cory. She acknowledged that most people here could afford to buy their own gifts but said “this means people really care about what’s happening here. They know we need comfort and want to heal”.