Ken Henggeler poured his grief into the thing he loved most: carpentry.
Shaken by the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, the retired teacher and longtime resident of Newtown went to his barn, picked up an oak children's bench and went to work. He sawed away, cutting it into two shelves.
On one, he made 20 individual slots for candles, one for each slain child. On the other, he placed six candles for the heroic educators. He drove into town, unsure of his destination.
At the intersection of Main Street and Sugar Street, he felt a tug. After all, the park there is called The Pleasance. On a tree and nearby street pole, there were two signs. Both read: Pray for Newtown.
It was the perfect spot. Just enough room to fit the shelves, and just enough space to let people hug, pray and cry. He and his wife, Darla, placed the shelf for the children in front and the one for the educators in the back, as if still watching over their young students.
Henggeler struggled to light each candle. First one. Then two. Then three.
"It was really hitting me," he said, "with how many were involved."
A car pulled up and a man placed a giant brown teddy bear next to the makeshift shrine.
More people came. All wept. The memorial grew and grew.
"We did it to help ourselves, and maybe the town," said Henggeler, a resident of 15 years. "I just wanted to do something. Now, I'm in awe."
The pain in Newtown is suffocating. It's felt on every corner, in every store, in every church. Each fresh news report -- each photo of those precious children, those tiny victims with so much youthful exuberance -- brings another wave of emotions, of sorrow, horror and disbelief.
Did you hear a child was shot 11 times? Can you believe the strength of Robbie Parker -- whose daughter Emilie was killed -- to forgive the shooter's family? Why did the shooter take out his rage on such pure innocence?
The shooter's name isn't mentioned in conversations. It's just too painful.
Newtown is grappling with other pressing questions: How does the town handle 26 funerals with only one funeral home? What becomes of the school building, and when do Sandy Hook students begin school again?
Sunday was supposed to be a festive day, filled with holiday revelry as students prepared for the final week before Christmas holiday. Instead, churches overflowed with mourners.
Gray clouds stretched from horizon to horizon, a cold drizzle dampening the already somber mood.
Newtown was the idyllic New England community -- that Norman Rockwell setting of rolling hills, a town green and an unwavering slice of Americana. The bumper stickers throughout town declared: "Nicer in Newtown."
And it was. The town of 27,500 had great schools and great people. Notable residents have included 1976 Olympic champion Bruce Jenner, "Hunger Games" author Suzanne Collins and cartoonist James Thurber.
It served as a bedroom community for Danbury and even New York, with people making the 60-mile commute into the city. Founded in 1711, the town in southwestern Connecticut spans 60 square miles, the fifth-largest town in area in the state.
Newtown's most gruesome crime story had been a murder charge against a husband accused of killing his wife in 1984; her remains were found beneath the floor of a barn in 2010.
But the town was best known for its 100-foot flagpole that sits, literally, in the middle of Main Street. The flagpole also had been the town's greatest source of controversy for nearly 100 years -- declared a road hazard as cars replaced ox wagons. Yet the flagpole survived every attempt by highway authorities to remove it. It also survived a lightning strike and a car that slammed into it going 55 mph.
The 12-foot by 18-foot flag now flies at half staff, a sad reminder hovering above the town's center.
Headlines in Friday's Newtown Bee reported on vandalism at a cemetery and warned of police plans for a sobriety checkpoint over the weekend.
Then, everything changed.
Librarian Beryl Harrison was celebrating with staff at their annual holiday party last Friday. They were preparing to sing Christmas carols when word came.