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Church services, vigils mark Sandy Hook shooting anniversary

NEWTOWN, Conn. (AP) — Vigils and church services were held Saturday in Connecticut to mark the seventh anniversary of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting and remember victims of other gun violence since the tragedy in Newtown.

Twenty first-graders and six educators were killed at the school on Dec. 14, 2012.

During one remembrance service, Monsignor Robert Weiss, of St. Rose of Lima Church, expressed dismay about how the spate of deadly gun violence has continued in the U.S. since Sandy Hook.

“On this day seven years ago, we all thought the world was going to change. But it seems we were deluded because the situation has gotten even worse with the violence of guns,” Weiss told a packed memorial Mass on Saturday, Hearst Connecticut Media reported. “We live in fear, we live in anxiety, and yet we live in hope because we know God walks with us.”

According to Connecticut Against Gun Violence, which helped to organize vigils held in the state on Saturday, more than 700,000 Americans have been killed or injured in gun violence since the Sandy Hook shooting.

The annual memorial Mass at St. Rose of Lima began with the traditional reading of the names of the Sandy Hook victims. A bell was solemnly rung after each name was recited.

While seven years have passed, many in the small community of Newtown still struggle to cope with the magnitude of the tragedy.

“Just when I thought I was moving past the difficult part of this experience, it comes back. And I know it is like that for a lot of us in Newtown,” Rabbi Shaul Praver said during an interfaith service at Newtown Congregational Church.

Weiss was overcome by tears at the end of his homily.

“I am asked all the time how we are doing — how our families are doing — and my answer is, ‘I don’t know,’ because every day brings something new,” Weiss said. “All we are given is what we have here this morning.”

Gov. Ned Lamont ordered all state and U.S. flags in Connecticut to be flown at half-staff from sunrise to sunset on Saturday in remembrance of the Newtown victims.

“The tragedy that occurred that day is one of the worst in our history,” Lamont, a Democrat, said in a statement. “But in its aftermath, we witnessed an unprecedented outpouring of humanity, hope, and kindness cascading into our state from over the entire world, spreading a message of love that we must proactively protect.”