Newtown United Methodist Church opened the doors around noon after ministers there heard of the tragedy. Brad Tefft, a bereavement minister at the church, drove in and opened the doors.
"I better get down there. It's in our neighborhood," Tefft remembered thinking.
He created a sign that said "prayer vigil," which he placed out by the street, and also put a sign on the door saying sanctuary open.
“The closeness became more apparent when you see a tragedy like this,” he said. “We all feel for the families, and the kids and the teachers. It’s part of who we are. It’s part of the fabric of what this community is like. When something like this happens it tears at all our heartstrings.”
As word spread of the magnitude of the tragedy in Newtown, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy talked on the telephone Friday with President Obama about the incident and held a press conference after Obama addressed the nation.
"Earlier today, a tragedy of unspeakable terms played itself out in this community," he said. "You can never be prepared for this incident."
"Beautiful children had their lives taken away from them, as well as adults whose responsibility it is to supervise and take care of those children," Malloy said.
Malloy spoke again Friday evening from the scene.
“Evil visited this community today,” he said. “It’s too early to speak of recovery, but each parent, each sibling, each member of the family has to understand that Connecticut, we’re all in this together, we’ll do whatever we can to overcome this event. We will get through it, but this is a terrible time for this community and these families.”
“Our prayers at this time have to go out to the families. ... The No. 1 way to be helpful is to say a prayer or send a best wish or to be thinking of these individuals who have suffered so mightily today.”
Earlier, Malloy spent time with the families, said Roy Occhiogrosso, Malloy's senior adviser.
"He is attempting to make sure they get the information they need. It is an unspeakable scene.''
Malloy ordered state and U.S. flags to be flown at half-staff.
State officials reacted with shock and alarm to the shootings.
House Republican leader Larry Cafero and Senate President Pro Tem Donald Williams were both stunned upon hearing that 27 had been killed. Cafero put his hand over his mouth in an immediate reaction.
The state departments of public health, education, mental health and addiction services, and the state police are all working on the incident.
Incoming U.S. Rep. Elizabeth Esty, who represents Newtown as part of the 5th Congressional District, said, "As a mother, I can only begin to imagine what the students, parents, teachers and staff of Sandy Hook Elementary must be experiencing. My thoughts and prayers go out to everyone impacted by this horrific tragedy. While details are still emerging, I hope for the safety and well being of the children, teachers and staff at Sandy Hook Elementary and for the Newtown community.''
Incoming U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy arrived at the firehouse around 2:30 p.m. and went to talk with parents.
Afternoon buses and kindergarten were cancelled. The entire Newton district was put on lockdown, and other school districts took similar measures across the state.