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A community's quiet moment on a day of 'unthinkable' tragedy

By Dana Ford, CNN
updated 11:46 AM EST, Sat December 15, 2012
Candles burn next to a lighted tree at a makeshift shrine in Newtown, Connecticut, commemorating the victims of the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14, 2012. Candles burn next to a lighted tree at a makeshift shrine in Newtown, Connecticut, commemorating the victims of the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14, 2012.
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Residents of Newtown gather for a vigil after a deadly school shooting
  • 20 children were killed at school, along with six adults
  • "The hearts and prayers of America are with you tonight," says a U.S. senator

Watch CNN's LIVE TV coverage of the Connecticut elementary school shooting as the story continues to unfold.

(CNN) -- They packed the pews to remember, mourn and pray.

What else can you do?

"Peoples' children, brothers and sisters were taken ... Peoples' spouses, those teachers and administrators, were taken from us. Yet we stand in a church, and many of us today, and in the coming days, will rely upon that which we have been taught and that which we inherently believe -- that there is faith for a reason, and that faith itself is God's gift to all of us," said Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy.

He spoke late Friday during a vigil at St. Rose of Lima Roman Catholic Church in Newtown.

Earlier in the day, a gunman opened fire at Sandy Hook Elementary School, killing 26 people in what is now the second-deadliest school shooting in U.S. history.

Twenty of the victims were children, most believed to be between the ages of 5-10.

There were more people than seats at the church, so they stood against walls, sat on the floor and waited outside. Some wiped tears as others simply clung to those near them. Candles were set up on a table outside the church.

The mood in service, which included organ and choir music, was somber.

"When the unthinkable happens in our very midst, our faith is tested. Not just in the religious sense, not just necessarily our faith in God, but our faith in community, in who we are and what we collectively are," the governor said.

"And it's ... permissible to have those thoughts and those doubts about who we are and what we are and what community represents. But then we turn to understand, as we turn around this room and recognize our friends and our neighbors," he added. "This is a great and beautiful community, located in a great and beautiful state, in a great and beautiful nation."

Much about what happened Friday in the quiet New England town of Newtown is not yet clear.

The "why" may never be.

Three law enforcement officials have identified the alleged gunman as 20-year-old Adam Lanza. He died of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound, one official said.

In addition to the killings at Sandy Hook, another adult was found dead at a second location in Newtown. A law enforcement source with detailed knowledge of the investigation identified that person as Lanza's mother, Nancy.

U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal told those in attendance at the vigil that they were sending a powerful message to the nation about community.

He thanked those who brought their children so that they could see "there is good in people."

"The hearts and prayers of America are with you tonight," Blumenthal said.

In Session's Lena Jakobsson contributed to this report from Newtown, Connecticut.

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