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Volunteers help Newtown celebrate Christmas

NEWTOWN, Conn. -- Newtown celebrated Christmas amid piles of snow-covered teddy bears, long lines of stockings and heaps of flowers as volunteers manned a 24-hour candlelight vigil to remember the 20 children and six educators slain 11 days before the holiday.

Well-wishers from around the country showed up Christmas morning to hang ornaments on a series of memorial Christmas trees while police officers from around the state took extra shifts to direct traffic, patrol the town and give police here a break.

"It's a nice thing that they can use us this way," Ted Latiak, a police detective from Greenwich, Conn., said Christmas morning, as he and a fellow detective, each working a half-day shift, came out of a store with bagels and coffee for other officers.

The expansive memorials throughout town for those killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School have become a gathering point for town residents and visitors alike.

A steady stream of residents, some in pajamas, relit candles that had been extinguished in an overnight snowstorm. A huge sidewalk memorial in the center of Newtown's Sandy Hook section that is filled with stuffed animals, poems, flowers, posters and cards.

In the morning, Newtown resident Joanne Brunetti watched over 26 candles that had been lit at midnight in honor of those slain at Sandy Hook Elementary School. She and her husband, Bill, signed up for a three-hour shift and erected a tent to ensure that the candle flames never went out throughout the day."You have to do something and you don't know what to do, you know? You really feel very helpless in this situation," she said. "People have been wonderful to everybody in Newtown whether you were part of what happened or not."

Julian Revie played "Silent Night" on a piano on the sidewalk at the downtown memorial. Revie, from Ottawa, Canada, was in the area visiting at the time of the shootings. He canceled his plans to go to Australia, found a piano online and chose to spend Christmas Eve and Christmas Day playing for the people of Newtown.

"It was such a mood of respectful silence," said Revie, who planned to leave the piano behind. "But yesterday being Christmas Eve and today being Christmas Day, I thought now it's time for some Christmas carols for the children."

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