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Twenty-Six Candles: Newtown Grieves

September 29, 2012 New York, NY, USA: (Robert Stolarik for The New York Times)

Newtown Tragedy: A Path to Grief and Mental Health Reconsidered

Written by Daryl Khan
Photos by Robert Stolarik

NEWTOWN, Conn. There’s a stretch of road in Newtown, Connecticut, 524 paces long. It leads from the official town Christmas tree at the corner of Riverside Drive and Washington Avenue up a hill and down again to a soft bend in the road at Dickinson Court where a sign hangs from a wooden post decorated with curling back wrought-ironwork that reads: Sandy Hook School, 1956, Visitors Welcome…

There, next to a staging area for emergency workers and police investigators, sits a sprawling memorial to the 20 children shot and killed by Adam Lanza, a young man who was barely an adult himself.

What used to be a nondescript road that connected the struggling heart of this small central Connecticut town to a municipal building has been transformed into an almost sacred path divided by a long line of orange emergency cones.

Without instruction, thousands of visitors from all over Connecticut, the country, and the world made the same silent pilgrimage between these two poles of grief. Their sympathy took on an almost childlike expression as adults with an incongruous solemnity, placed grinning stuffed animals under the town tree, or down the hill in piles creating a sprawling memorial shielded from a cold rain by two crooked orange tents.

They stopped to stare at the burgeoning memorials. Some prayed. Some wept. Some collapsed on the wet ground in a heap.

It was difficult for many of the visitors, tourists inexorably drawn to the small town not for its stores or quaint architectural facades but because of its tragedy, to articulate why they were there. They asked how it could happen? Why? They talked about big questions.

“It’s unfathomable this kind of evil,” said Father Jack Whritenour, 42, a father of a school age daughter and the pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church in the town of Shelton, 15 miles south of Newtown. “It’s an age-old question and it doesn’t have any easy answers.”

School Shooting Newtown CT.

School Shooting Newtown CT.

September 29, 2012 New York, NY, USA: (Robert Stolarik for The New York Times)

School Shooting Newtown CT.

School Shooting Newtown CT.

September 29, 2012 New York, NY, USA: (Robert Stolarik for The New York Times)

School Shooting Newtown CT.

School Shooting Newtown CT.

September 29, 2012 New York, NY, USA: (Robert Stolarik for The New York Times)

School Shooting Newtown CT.

School Shooting Newtown CT.

September 29, 2012 New York, NY, USA: (Robert Stolarik for The New York Times)

School Shooting Newtown CT.

School Shooting Newtown CT.

September 29, 2012 New York, NY, USA: (Robert Stolarik for The New York Times)

School Shooting Newtown CT.

School Shooting Newtown CT.

September 29, 2012 New York, NY, USA: (Robert Stolarik for The New York Times)

School Shooting Newtown CT.

School Shooting Newtown CT.

September 29, 2012 New York, NY, USA: (Robert Stolarik for The New York Times)

School Shooting Newtown CT.

School Shooting Newtown CT.

September 29, 2012 New York, NY, USA: (Robert Stolarik for The New York Times)

School Shooting Newtown CT.

School Shooting Newtown CT.

September 29, 2012 New York, NY, USA: (Robert Stolarik for The New York Times)

School Shooting Newtown CT.

School Shooting Newtown CT.

September 29, 2012 New York, NY, USA: (Robert Stolarik for The New York Times)

School Shooting Newtown CT.

School Shooting Newtown CT.

September 29, 2012 New York, NY, USA: (Robert Stolarik for The New York Times)

School Shooting Newtown CT.

School Shooting Newtown CT.

September 29, 2012 New York, NY, USA: (Robert Stolarik for The New York Times)

School Shooting Newtown CT.

School Shooting Newtown CT.

September 29, 2012 New York, NY, USA: (Robert Stolarik for The New York Times)

School Shooting Newtown CT.

School Shooting Newtown CT.

September 29, 2012 New York, NY, USA: (Robert Stolarik for The New York Times)

School Shooting Newtown CT.

School Shooting Newtown CT.

September 29, 2012 New York, NY, USA: (Robert Stolarik for The New York Times)

School Shooting Newtown CT.

School Shooting Newtown CT.

September 29, 2012 New York, NY, USA: (Robert Stolarik for The New York Times)

School Shooting Newtown CT.

School Shooting Newtown CT.

September 29, 2012 New York, NY, USA: (Robert Stolarik for The New York Times)

School Shooting Newtown CT.

School Shooting Newtown CT.

September 29, 2012 New York, NY, USA: (Robert Stolarik for The New York Times)

School Shooting Newtown CT.

School Shooting Newtown CT.

September 29, 2012 New York, NY, USA: (Robert Stolarik for The New York Times)

School Shooting Newtown CT.

School Shooting Newtown CT.

September 29, 2012 New York, NY, USA: (Robert Stolarik for The New York Times)

School Shooting Newtown CT.

School Shooting Newtown CT.

September 29, 2012 New York, NY, USA: (Robert Stolarik for The New York Times)

School Shooting Newtown CT.

School Shooting Newtown CT.

September 29, 2012 New York, NY, USA: (Robert Stolarik for The New York Times)

School Shooting Newtown CT.

School Shooting Newtown CT.

September 29, 2012 New York, NY, USA: (Robert Stolarik for The New York Times)

School Shooting Newtown CT.

School Shooting Newtown CT.

September 29, 2012 New York, NY, USA: (Robert Stolarik for The New York Times)

School Shooting Newtown CT.

School Shooting Newtown CT.

September 29, 2012 New York, NY, USA: (Robert Stolarik for The New York Times)

School Shooting Newtown CT.

School Shooting Newtown CT.

September 29, 2012 New York, NY, USA: (Robert Stolarik for The New York Times)

School Shooting Newtown CT.

School Shooting Newtown CT.

September 29, 2012 New York, NY, USA: (Robert Stolarik for The New York Times)

School Shooting Newtown CT.

School Shooting Newtown CT.

September 29, 2012 New York, NY, USA: (Robert Stolarik for The New York Times)

School Shooting Newtown CT.

School Shooting Newtown CT.

September 29, 2012 New York, NY, USA: (Robert Stolarik for The New York Times)

School Shooting Newtown CT.

School Shooting Newtown CT.

September 29, 2012 New York, NY, USA: (Robert Stolarik for The New York Times)

School Shooting Newtown CT.

School Shooting Newtown CT.

September 29, 2012 New York, NY, USA: (Robert Stolarik for The New York Times)