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One way to start the grieving process: Read the Newtown victims' names out loud

John Makely / NBC News

Erin Nemeth, 21, and Kelley Sullivan, 21, talk about some of the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting and their families on Saturday in Newtown, Conn..

NEWTOWN, Conn. --  A few tears marked Pete Kearney's face as he walked away from a vigil late Saturday near the fire station next to Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Kearney, 47 and the father of two teenagers and a 22-year-old, said he had read out loud the names of every victim of the school massacre to his 17-year-old son earlier Saturday to take in the loss to the community.

“It just felt never-ending … overpowering, overwhelming,” said Kearney, a golf course greenkeeper whose children live with him in Newtown. “It felt real before that, but then, you know, you see the ages and the names … it's just incredible, so sad. I don't think I have the words.”

Kearney said that the release of the names might be a first step in the grieving process, and perhaps "we can start reaching out to some of the victims' families, helping them heal and in that step, help ourselves heal, and move forward, all of us. I guess it's all virgin territory, all of us. No answers here."

Kearney hoped to return later that evening with his daughter to the ongoing vigil, where people were placing flowers, stuffed animals and lighting candles. He choked up at times talking with a reporter about the tragedy that struck their community, noting that one of his children's friends had lost their mother.

“Nobody knows what to do, I think. You light a candle, say a prayer,” he said, his voice trembling as the words trailed off.

At makeshift memorials at the fire station and elsewhere across town, people gathered to mourn, cry, pray and sing.

Friends Kelley Sullivan and Erin Nemeth, both 21, brought 20 Beanie Babies to the fire station in Sandy Hook, where on Friday parents of victims waited to learn their children's fate. Even before the names were released, Nemeth said she knew that a boy and a girl on her block had been killed.

“To me it makes it seem even more surreal” with the release of the names, Nemeth said. “It just doesn't seem like it's real,” she said, shuddering.

The small Connecticut town of Newtown is grieving in the aftermath of Friday's deadly school shootings. NBC's Anne Thompson reports.

“ ... the pictures are going to start coming up and stories of these little kids, and they're just like innocent lives of what they enjoyed to do, and now they won't be able to do anything,” Sullivan said.

“People don't really understand how young these children actually were … most of them born in 2006, which to us does not sound long ago, because it wasn't. And that's when they started their life and it's over already,” she added.

Nemeth said they were supporting the family of a victim “as we can providing meals. … We can't even begin to make these families feel better right now.”

The pair, both from Newtown and friends since the seventh grade, said they each brought 10 of their favorite Beanie Babies to leave at the memorial at the fire station.

The dolls represent “the innocence and the youth of those people who were lost,” said a teary-eyed Sullivan. 

Countries that have experienced similar tragedies tonight stand shoulder-to-shoulder with America as it mourns the deaths of 28, most of them young children. NBC's Annabel Roberts reports.

Noel Hernandez said he and his wife Lizbeth came from Shelton, two towns away, to "absorb everything that's going on." They stood in front of a Christmas tree down the street where some had gathered to leave mementos and where small, candle-illuminated decorations had been placed in a memorial on the ground.

As Puerto Ricans, they also were moved by the death of a Puerto Rican girl who was among those killed at the school.

"Trying to make sense of it," said the father of seven. "We always think how would we react if that would happen to ... us?"

At the fire station vigil, he said: "It was ... quiet. You can almost feel what everybody was thinking." 

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