In Newtown, death's chill haunts the morning after school shooting

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NEWTOWN, Conn. — As residents woke up in the frost-covered village of Sandy Hook, Conn., on Saturday morning, some filed into the warmest place they could think of — the Sandy Hook Diner on the main street of the hamlet.

Some offered to bring coffee and breakfast to families who lost children in Friday’s elementary school shooting.

Others just wanted to see familiar faces and try to make sense of a tragedy that none could explain.

Many of the children killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School just a few blocks away, have likely sat in Sandy Hook Diner and scribbled in the coloring books the waitresses keep under the worn counter, said Jodi Mucherino, 51, who was pouring coffee and delivering orders of pancakes and eggs on Saturday.

The diner prides itself on being a place parents can bring their kids and the servers don’t mind if the little ones are screaming or crying or running in circles, she said.

The cooks often make pancakes shaped like animals and smiley faces for the kids.

“There are no words,” said Mucherino, who attended the Sandy Hook school. “Everybody is a mess.”

It is Msgr. Robert Weiss’s habit to have breakfast every morning at this diner, and he felt that it was important — this morning of all mornings — that he make an appearance and be able to minister to anyone who was grieving.

When he sat down and ordered a small stack of pancakes he took off his blue plaid scarf to show his black and white priest’s collar.

“The reality is just settling in,” he said.

Weiss was up before dawn on Saturday to help the Connecticut State Police notify families whose loved ones had been confirmed dead by investigators working at the crime scene through the night.

He joined a three-person team that included a state police officer and a grief counselor. One of the two families he visited had lost both a parent and a child in the shooting.

He has ministered to parents who have lost young children before, but little could prepare him for the magnitude of evil that came to this town yesterday, he said.

“I just hope God’s hand will be on me,” he said.

Weiss was in the town’s fire station all day Friday counseling parents and teachers from the school.

He recalled baptizing some of the children who were killed and on Friday night led a memorial service at St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church.

“I draw strength from these families,” he said, as walked out to meet with more members of his congregation.

“They have suffered and are still going.”

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