NEWTOWN — At St. Rose of Lima Roman Catholic Church, where so many went to pray in the days after the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School, a prayer that is usually read the Wednesday after Easter caused many to bow their heads.
"Today bring to me the meek and humble souls and the souls of little children, and immerse them in my mercy," a woman read from the altar. "These souls most closely resemble my heart. They strengthened me during my bitter agony. I saw them as earthly angels, who will keep vigil at my altars."
To some at the Mass, the devotional marked a historic day for a town that is already steeped in history since the 1700s but is now struggling with its legacy in the aftermath of one of the nation's worst massacres.
Throughout Newtown, tears from those interviewed Wednesday showed that emotions were still raw. But interest in what was happening miles away at the state Capitol showed a need to move toward Newtown's future — and to write its next chapter in Connecticut's history.
"Newtown won't solve it all, but people here will sure try to make it better," Carol Wise, a Newtown resident, said minutes after Wednesday's Mass, hours before legislators were expected to pass stricter gun-control legislation. Her daughter, a therapist, was at Sandy Hook Elementary the day of the shooting. "Our focus now is to try and turn it around."
All over town Wednesday, residents lauded legislation that would ban more types of semiautomatic assault rifles and prohibit the sale and purchase of large-capacity ammunition magazines.
A vote for tougher gun laws, they said, meant that the victims of the shooting would not be forgotten and that the efforts of family members of those killed who pushed for such legislation would not have been in vain.
Phil Giordano, 74, a retired landscaper from Newtown and gun owner, said he favored legislation that would go as far as banning assault rifles.
When he stopped into a local coffee shop to get coffee Wednesday morning, he said, his friends were discussing why anyone other than law enforcement officers and soldiers would need high-powered weapons and a lot of ammunition.
"I think this will be a good thing for Newtown and the rest of the state if it goes through," Giordano said.
But others in Newtown said that lawmakers should have focused less on weapons restrictions and more on addressing mental health issues.
"Obviously, this tragedy affected us all," said Richard Fisher, 49, a Newtown resident and opponent of the new legislation. "But I don't think the answer is further regulations on law-abiding citizens."
Lincoln R. Sander, president of the Newtown Historical Society, said that although there is division nationwide about firearms restrictions, most people in Newtown support gun control legislation.
"It really means a lot to some people here, especially those directly affected by the tragedy," Sander said.
Sander said that the historical society has been keeping a record of the events that have occurred in town since Dec. 14. Wednesday's vote, he said, would be another milestone.
"It's an historical day in the sense that there is a tough gun-control law being voted on that has to do with a horrendous event that occurred here," Sander said. "I'm just not sure that over time, people will remember the law as much as they'll remember the tragedy."
"This is a good start to putting the safety of our citizens over the love of the almighty dollar,'' Nelba Marquez-Greene said Wednesday. Her daughter Ana Grace Marquez-Greene was killed in the attack."I am grateful to our leaders for working collaboratively and quickly to pass new laws.''
Nicole Hockley, whose son Dylan was killed on Dec. 14, said: "I'm just very pleased that progress is being made, and I'm grateful to the Connecticut legislature for listening to us and for approving one of the strongest gun laws in the country. I appreciate that. They have listened to what we asked them to do."
"This is going to be something that takes a long time," she said. "This is just the first step in a multitude of steps. This is progress. Progress is always good."
Michael Aigus, 57, a retired correctional officer, said that although Wednesday's vote would probably do little to lessen the pain of that December day, he hoped the memory of how people responded to it would help the town he's lived in for two decades move forward.
"When they write about Newtown now you see stories about guns and violence," Aigus said as he closed up the local newspaper and placed it on the lunch counter at the Sandy Hook Diner. "That's not the way you want your town represented. It's been this blot on the town in the same way like Columbine and that other town in Colorado. As hard as it is, you have to try and move on."
The Rev. Luke Suarez of St. Rose of Lima said that he has seen many people trying to do just that in the face of extraordinary pain.
Since the tragedy, more pews at St. Rose of Lima's daily Masses have been filled with those who show they have hope in what is to come.
"They will do what they need to do," Suarez said. "And by them being here today, focusing on the joys of the Easter season like hope and faith, they are attempting to heal."
Courant staff writer Dave Altimari contributed to this story.Copyright © 2015, CT Now