Police and fire honor guards, motorcycle escorts, Boy Scouts and thousands of mourners attended services for Sandy Hook School shooting victims in Connecticut Thursday; and in New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan compared slain teacher Anne Marie Murphy to Jesus.
In a Katonah, N.Y. church crowded to overflowing, the cardinal said Murphy "has brought together a community, a nation, a world, now awed by her own life and death," as her relatives expressed sympathy for the dozens of other families in mourning for the 20 students and six women killed last Friday.
Murphy, 52, died trying to protect her young pupils, according to her father, Hugh McGowan. Her body was found covering a group of children's bodies as if to shield them, McGowan said.
Dolan underscored her sacrifice.
"Like Jesus, Annie laid down her life for her friends," he said. "Like Jesus, Annie's life and death brings light, truth, goodness and love to a world often shrouded in darkness, evil, selfishness and death."
Mourners started to arrive more than an hour before Murphy's funeral Mass at St. Mary of the Assumption Church, about 15 of them arriving in a yellow school bus marked "Newtown." Some young people on the bus wore Newtown athletic jackets.
Before the service, Murphy's brother-in-law Thomas Newman read a brief statement from her family.
Her relatives "pray for all the families touched so terribly, that God may help these feelings of such great pain and grief pass quickly; that they be replaced with only happy thoughts and joyous memories of those we have lost," the statement said.
Dolan decided to preach at Murphy's funeral "to express his support for all who lost their lives in Newtown and their families," Archdiocese of New York spokesman Joseph Zwilling said. "Just being present, even in our silence — we can make that silence a prayer."
As the bell tolled at the white clapboard church, a wooden casket was carried up the steps, with dozens of Murphy's relatives following. The church soon filled, and nearly 100 more people waited outside.
A similar scene was played out Thursday morning outside the Danbury funeral for Lauren Rousseau, the 30-year-old substitute teacher at Sandy Hook. Lines formed hours before her service and the church could not contain the hundreds who attended.
In Newtown Thursday morning, funeral masses were held for 6-year-olds Benjamin Wheeler and Catherine Hubbard.
Benjamin Wheeler was a new member of Tiger Cub Scout Pack 170. But Thursday he was treated like a Eagle Scout by the Cub Scouts and Boys Scouts of America.
At Benjamin's funeral at Trinity Episcopal Church, members of both groups, alongside other family and friends, waited to pay tribute. For nearly two hours, other scouts and their leaders, holding flags representing their respective packs and troops, waited outside in the cold in front of a large picture of Benjamin at the church's entrance.
When the doors to the church opened about 1 p.m., the scouts saluted and raised their flags.
The flags represented scouts from all over the state and region, including Newtown, Ridgefield, New Fairfield, Redding, Bethel, Danbury, Milford, New Jersey and New York.
Benjamin — and his classmate Chase Kowalski, whose memorial service was Wednesday — were awarded the Spirit of the Eagle Award Thursday. Their families were presented with the Award from BSA Chief Scout Executive Wayne Brock and other officials, who had traveled to Newtown to honor the pair.
Jon Pleva, the council director of field service, presented an American Flag to the families of both.
Victoria Soto, 27, whose funeral was Wednesday in Stratford, was an Explorer as a girl at Stratford EMS Post 4911. Three of the other victims were siblings of boys in Pack 170.
Earlier in the day, Catherine Hubbard, 6, also was remembered with a funeral at St. Rose of Lima Roman Catholic Church. During her mass the procession for Benjamin Wheeler could be seen passing by outside the church, headed for Trinity Episcopal Church, where his funeral was to begin 20 minutes later.
An Associated Press report is included in this story.Copyright © 2015, CT Now