By Tuesday morning, they began collecting donations in town offices for families ravaged by the Oklahoma tornadoes.
Newtown, a universe away from Moore, Okla., feels the pain of the destruction more deeply, more intimately. Here, they know, because they lived it. They still live it.
The faraway television images were chilling: those crying children, parents frantically searching for little boys and girls. The Newtown response to the Oklahoma tornadoes is simple and overwhelming: We understand.
"We had to do it. We have to help,'' said Carole Ross, human resources director for Newtown. She was quick to remind me what others around town said on Tuesday: Money, not stuffed animals, is what devastated neighborhoods in Oklahoma City and its suburbs need the most right now.
"We are not going to send teddy bears,'' Ross said when I found her in a hallway at the town offices. "We are sending money. That's what they need."
"We are devastated. Again."
The Sandy Hook school shootings, never far from anyone's thoughts here, came roaring back for a town only tentatively approaching how to handle the looming six-month anniversary of the 26 who died in the Newtown massacre.
In Newtown, ribbons remain on lapels, green bracelets on wrists. The green and white bunting still hangs from a white picket fence in the village of Sandy Hook.
For some here — probably for many — Oklahoma's distant pain is right next door.
"When you see that it is in Oklahoma, we don't think of it like that,'' Rabbi Shaul Praver of Congregation Adath Israel explained to me when we talked Tuesday afternoon. "We do feel it more. It is not some other place."
Praver, part of a close-knit collection of clergy still wrestling with how to deal with the aftermath of the Sandy Hook shootings, said that when he sees the anguish of parents and children in Oklahoma, it isn't another TV news tragedy.
"It is us."
It is the crushing "impact of loss'' that remains, said the Rev. Matthew Crebbin, senior pastor at the Newtown Congregational Church. In Newtown these days, "we are more acutely aware of grief. … What is more evocative for us is we feel a deeper connection to communities that go through this.''
So the "We are Sandy Hook" and "We Choose Love" signs remain in store windows. A group that sold "We are Newtown" T-shirts as a fundraiser immediately over-nighted a few hundred of the shirts Tuesday to the Moore, Okla., police department.
"People around the world reached out to our community. It was the least we could do,'' said Kyle Lyddy, who lives and works in town. "We understand the feeling. The situations are totally different and they are eerily similar."
Lyddy said what I kept hearing around town Tuesday. We understand.
"I've had a number of people call wanting to truck things out there,'' Newtown's indefatigable first selectman, E. Patricia Llodra, said late Tuesday afternoon. "Anytime there is a horrible event like this, it taps into our sadness. We understand."
There is something critically important that Newtown residents have learned, Llodra said. "It is important to know that others care."
Because they can't forget Dec. 14, three men who grew up in Newtown will leave for Oklahoma on Thursday afternoon with a trailer of medical supplies — and donated cash — to help.
"It's the right thing to do,'' said Howard Wood, who was driving around the state Tuesday when I reached him by cell as he was gathering donations. "People came from Texas and all over to help Newtown," he reminded me when I asked why he was making a trip like this.
Of course, the families who lost children don't need another tragedy to remind them. Some, like members of the Sandy Hook Promise group, retell their wrenching stories frequently. This week, a group of parents went to Illinois, reliving the moments and days after Dec. 14 for state legislators considering a new gun control law. Some of them have been doing this around the country for months.
Still, the Oklahoma tornadoes hit like a punch to the stomach. Once again, a school — which is supposed to be a safe haven for children — became a place of death and destruction.
"This certainly reopens the very raw and unhealed wounds,'' said Rob Cox, a co-founder of Sandy Hook Promise. "It's not just the people who lost children."
We talked about how lately it feels as if we lurch from one tragedy, natural or man-made, to the next. Aurora, storm Sandy, Newtown, Boston and now the Oklahoma tornadoes.
"It's that same feeling of dread,'' Cox said when we spoke of the television images of panicked Oklahoma parents searching for children. "They are waiting to find out if their child has passed."
"This is a community that understands this pain. There is something that connects our communities,'' said Cox, a Newtown parent who has grown close to some of the more outspoken family members of Sandy Hook victims. "It will always be a part of who we are."
To make a donation through the town of Newtown, contact the first selectman's office at 203-270-4201. To donate through Howard Wood's trip to Oklahoma, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.