A U.S. flag flies at half staff Sunday, Dec. 16, 2012, outside the Edmond Town Hall building in Newtown, Conn. (WND photo / Stewart Stogel)

NEWTOWN, Conn. –  The dimension of a gunman’s massacre of young students and staff at the Sandy Hook Elementary School on Friday is beginning to take hold not just in the small hamlet of Newtown, but in the entire tri-state area.

On Sunday, the first of 26 women and children killed were laid to rest.

WND spent the day at the Newtown Police Department and observed visitors from as close as Bridgeport, Conn., to as far away as Washington, D.C.

They came to pay their respects after news of the tragedy rocked the nation with grief and outrage.

It was a rain-soaked, cloudy day on Sunday – almost as if the heavens were grieving the loss of so many youngsters so soon and so suddenly.

Some visitors brought candy with them. Others brought cakes. Still others brought entire dinners to police headquarters.

“We just wanted to show police that we’re proud of them,” said one woman. “We appreciate them.”

A man rode his bicycle 25 miles to join the evening prayer vigil attended by President Obama here.

“Some people thought I was crazy,” explained the young man, who asked not to be identified.

He went on to say, “My coming up here was my way of showing that I cared and wanted everyone here in Newtown to know that they’re not alone.”

The local police department has been joined by hundreds of other police officers around the state who are helping the town cope with the massive influx of politicians, media and curious visitors.

Meanwhile, as the outsiders poured in, the Newtown residents spent the evening in quiet prayer vigils around the community. Most of the churches held private services to honor those who were killed at Sandy Hook. The services were mostly quiet and reverent. They were prayer sessions with attendees preferring private meditation rather than wordy speeches. The preference for private meditation may have been a reflection of the rather large Native-American population in this rustic New England town.

“It’ll be a while before we understand what really happened here,” remarked one somber woman.

Meanwhile, President Obama led the nation in commemoration as the honored guest in that evening prayer vigil. The service drew people from more than five states.

Connecticut police were forced to form barricades and turn incoming visitors away to control the overflowing crowds.

“I didn’t care about being turned away,” said one visitor. “I just wanted to show what happened here affects all of us.”

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