Emotional triggers for the traumatized community members of Newtown, Conn., include holiday staples like gingerbread houses and school recitals as well as every day things like sirens and news trucks, town officials said in a news conference today.
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The families of 14 victims came together in a separate news conference and stood in front of a banner with a heart made of the victims' names and made an emotional statement. They encouraged people wanting to help to perform acts of kindness in honor of their children or volunteer with an organization in their own communities.
"We have come to realize that we want our loved ones to be remembered for the lives they lived and how they touched our hearts," Krista Rekos, mother of 6-year-old Jessica Rekos, said.
They also announced a website that will be a singular place of communication and sharing for the families.
Each family then approached the microphone and said they would be lighting a candle Friday night, the anniversary of the last night they spent with their loved ones, and made a brief comment about their child or relative.
Town officials met with the media earlier in the day in order to urge them to stay away as the one-year anniversary of the school shooting approaches.
"Please don't come. Please respect our need to be alone and to be quiet and to have that personal time," First Selectman Pat Llodra said at the news conference. "We also have a real need for our community to gain its foothold, particularly during this difficult time."
"We don't need to be reminded. We don't need to re-live it," she said. "Please give us that chance."
Newtown Youth Academy co-director Cody Foss said the "triggers" are difficult for community members.
Saturday will mark the first anniversary of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School where a gunman killed 20 students and six staff members before turning the gun on himself. He had shot and killed his mother earlier that morning.
Newtown Police Chief Mike Kehoe said that there will be extra law enforcement personnel in the town from Friday to Sunday, but officials also hope to maintain a sense of normalcy, especially for students and teachers.
On Friday, interim superintendent of schools John Reed said he expects most students to be present in school and they will aim for consistency throughout the day. Mental health resources have been and will continue to be available.
"Newtown is cracked. We've been through a devastating experience and yet in the midst of those cracks, you're seeing light shining through," Newtown Minister Matt Crebbin said.
Some of the victim's families of the Sandy Hook School Shooting are expected to gather this afternoon for a press conference reflecting on the grim anniversary.
The officials also made a request for a positive way to honor those who died.
"We really, truly are asking people to honor those who lost their lives here on Dec. 14, and we ask they do that by a random act of kindness," Llodra said.