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Associated Press

NEWTOWN, Conn. (AP) - Religious leaders from different faiths gathered Friday on a wind-swept, snowy soccer field to mark two weeks since the Connecticut elementary school massacre and pray for healing.

A few dozen residents joined representatives from Roman Catholic, Episcopal, Methodist, Congregational, Buddhist, Muslim and other places of worship.

"Your faith leaders want you to know that we continue to stand with you as we all continue to deal with this great tragedy that has befallen our beloved community of Newtown," said the Rev. Jack Tanner, of Newtown Christian Church. "It is only the beginning of a long healing process that we will all go through."

A gunman shot his way into Sandy Hook Elementary School on Dec. 14 and killed 20 first-grade students and six adult staff members. He also killed his mother before going on the school rampage and then committing suicide.

"We are your children, your hurting children from many faiths, many traditions, many cultures, from many parts of the Earth," said the Rev. Leo McIlrath, of the Lutheran Home of Southbury. "We cry out to you. We are in pain and we ask for your healing."

Vicky Truitt, who works at Newtown Congregational Church, said she had been feeling worn down before the service.

"Today it was helpful, the prayers that they gave, to hear all the different denominations all together as one," Truitt said. "Even the ones where you didn't understand the words, you could understand the feeling that was behind them."

The outpouring of grief from around the country is evident in Sandy Hook, a section of Newtown where memorials are filled with stuffed animals, flowers, candles and crosses. Tiny Christmas stockings with the names and ages of the victims hang from one memorial, and signs from South Carolina and Florida offer love and prayers.

Patti Raddock, of Fairfield, Conn., was among many out-of-towners in Newtown to pay their respects. She said the tragedy made her feel ill.

"It's still unfathomable," she said. "I don't know how we could have stopped this kind of craziness."


(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
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