NEWTOWN, Conn. - Residents of Newtown prepared on Monday to observe Christmas. Tiny, empty red stockings sewn with the victims' names hung from trees in the neighborhood where the 20 children and six adults were shot in a school.
A steady stream of people lit candles and dropped off toys at a memorial filled with stuffed animals, poems, flowers, posters and cards.
"All the families who lost those little kids, Christmas will never be the same," said resident Philippe Poncet. "Everybody across the world is trying to share the tragedy with our community here."
Police say 20-year-old resident Adam Lanza killed his mother in her bed before his Dec. 14 school rampage killed himself as he heard officers arriving. Authorities have yet to give a theory about his motive. The guns he used had been legally purchased by his mother, a gun enthusiast.
While the grief was still fresh, some residents were urging political activism in the wake of President Barack Obama's call for "real action, right now." A grassroots group called Newtown United has been meeting to talk about national issues ranging from gun control to increasing mental health services.
"We seek not to be the town of tragedy," said Rabbi Shaul Praver of Congregation Adath Israel. "But we seek to be the town where all the great changes started."
Richard Scinto, a deacon at St. Rose of Lima Roman Catholic Church, which was attended by eight children killed in the massacre, said the church's pastor, Rev. Robert Weiss, told his congregation to get angry and take action against what some consider is a culture of gun violence in the U.S.
"These were his mother's guns," Scinto said. "Why would anyone want an assault rifle as part of a private citizen collection?"
A handful of people showed up to the first Newtown United meeting two days after the Dec. 14 shooting. A few days later, Sen. Richard Blumenthal and Sen.-elect Chris Murphy told the group they planned to push for gun control legislation.
"We don't want Newtown to go on the list with Columbine, Tucson and Virginia Tech and only have it associated with horrible acts," said Lee Shull, who moderated one Newton United meeting. "We want to turn this into something positive. What can we do?"