comforted those nearest them and nodded in agreement with various speakers.
Meanwhile, outside, members of the Sikh community from 11 different places of
worship around the Northeast came to the vigil and hosted a candlelight
ceremony outside after everyone went in.
"Today, we, the Sikh community ... we have come here to Sandy Hook today to express our love and support for all the families affected. Today we are no less devastated than we were four months ago when one of our places of worship was attacked. Today each one of us feels that our own children have been targeted. That's what has brought us here today. We have all joined together in prayer. It's important for us to reflect that it's times of great tragedy that bring out the best in all of us," said Sarbpreer Singh, spokesman for one of the Sikh communities.
On Aug. 5, 2012, a lone gunman killed six people and wounded four others at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wis., before shooting himself. That incident was one of the four Obama cited in his speech.
In addition to the governor, state officials in attendance at the memorial included Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman and legislative leaders, including John McKinney, the Senate Minority Leader whose district includes Newtown; House Speaker Chris Donovan; and his replacement on the speaker's dais, Brendan Sharkey.
Connecticut's U.S. representatives in attendance included Jim Himes, Rosa DeLauro, John Larson and Chris Murphy and U.S. Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Joseph Lieberman. Members of the congressional delegation briefly met with Obama.
"I think we're at a turning point, a tipping point," said Sen. Richard Blumenthal, who was the state attorney general and U.S. attorney in Connecticut before his election to the Senate in 2010. As he spoke to a reporter, he was approached by Amy Martin, 17, a Newtown High student. She handed him two stickers. Each carried the image of a child's handprint and the date 12-14-12. She and her friends have been selling them in town to raise money for the victims
At exactly 7:30 p.m., a group of first responders -- local and state police and emergency personnel -- filed into the auditorium. They were met with a prolonged standing ovation, as were the federal law enforcement agents who followed.
While waiting for Obama to speak, Sean Bennet of Bristol and his friend, Marlando Campbell, waited outside Newtown High School.
"I think it shows human side of president -- he's a president but also a father and a husband and I think just showing [the] world [that] ..." Bennett said, and Campbell finished: "It's not about politics."
Bennet said he is friends with the family of Ana M. Marquez-Greene, 6, one of the victims in the shooting because he shares a church with her father, Jimmie Greene.
"He and his wife were the first people I met in Connecticut," he said. "They've been there for me during really hard times ... I just wanted to come out and do whatever I could."
Jacquie Small, of Bridgeport, was drawn to Newtown on Sunday. "I'm a mother, and words cannot express my feelings for [families] who lost loved ones. I just came to share my grief with them so that's a reason why I'm here tonight. I didn't care if it was rain, snow, sleet storm, I would still have been here."
Earlier in the day, people traveled from around the region to mourn in Newtown. Kerry Stewart came from West Hartford with his wife, Mary Lynn, and daughter, Grace.
"We just felt, as a family, we wanted to come down," he said. Stewart is a teacher at the prison in Newtown. His wife is a school nurse. "You just want to go home and hug your kid."
Mary Lynn looked at the bells hung from a large pine tree, one that was strung with lights for Christmas. Each bell had the name of a victim, and said "Angel at 6" or "Angel at 7."
Barbara McDonald came from Waterbury with her sister and her niece.
"My daughter is petrified to go to school tomorrow," McDonald said. She told the 9-year-old to "just pray," she said. McDonald and her sister, Nadia Facey, are both paraprofessionals in Waterbury schools.
"I'm here because I just feel like I need to be here. I can't describe it," said Trish Blazi of Middlebury, wiping tears from her eyes. "These poor parents. Once this town has emptied out ... Right now, the support of the whole country is around them. When that's gone, what do you do?"
People thronged makeshift memorials much of Sunday, even in a downpour in the late morning. That was when golden retrievers from the Lutheran Church Charities K-9 Comfort Dog Ministry arrived from Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Portage, Ind.
"We're here to give some emotional support," handler Dan Fulkerson said. "Wherever we're needed, we go."
Reporting by Jenny Wilson, The Associated Press and the White House pool report are included in this account.
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