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Anniversary Of Sandy Hook Shooting Falls On School Day For First Time

NEWTOWN, Conn. (CBSNewYork/AP) -- Flags are flying at half-staff across Connecticut in honor of the 26 people killed three years ago in the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre.

It's the first time students are attending school on the anniversary of the shooting. Newtown officials said they will try to make Monday as normal a school day as possible.

Superintendent of Schools Joseph Erardi Jr. said the high school and middle school principals will address the anniversary with students before holding moments of silence.

The same won't be done with younger children. Erardi said elementary school staff will provide parents with talking points on how to discuss the shooting with their children, if requested.

Twenty first-graders and six educators were killed Dec. 14, 2012. The gunman, Adam Lanza, killed his mother inside their Newtown home and later shot his way into the school, where he carried out the rampage before killing himself.

The school was demolished and a new Sandy Hook school is set to open in the fall of 2016 at the same site. In the meantime, Sandy Hook students are taking classes in a building in the neighboring town of Monroe.

Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty, who represents Newtown, told WCBS 880's Marla Diamond that wounds have yet to heal.

"Just an awful, horrible ordeal that continues to effect the community to this day," Esty said.

SUNY Cortland President Erik J. Bitterbaum posted a letter on the University's Facebook page on Monday, calling for students and faculty to remember Mary Joy Green Sherlach, a Cortland alum who was killed during the Sandy Hook shooting. Sherlach graduated from Cortland in 1978.

"Mary was a true hero," Bitterbaum wrote. "She spent her life helping others and lost her life trying to protect young children from a fate they didn't deserve. Her example inspires us all."

Marches and rallies were held nationwide over the weekend to remember the Sandy Hook victims and call for an end to gun violence.  

Some demonstrations were organized by the group Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. The group was founded in response to the Sandy Hook school shooting.

On the issue of gun control, Esty said she saw a reason to hope after watching crowds at a vigil held in Washington.

"It was Americans across this country united in a common purpose and commitment to take meaningful action," Esty said.

Newtown is keeping the anniversary low-key. The biggest event is an annual interfaith community service Monday evening.

The Rev. Matthew Crebbin of the Newtown Congregational Church said he sees first-hand the struggle to heal from the loss of the children, teachers and friends.

He told WCBS 880 Connecticut Bureau Chief Fran Schneidau that as difficult as their sorrow is, "their connection to their loved ones that they lost is also filled with joy and rememberance and celebration of their lives. And so you don't ever want to just assume that sorrow, that grief, that trauma are the only defining characteristics of people."

Crebbin added that the struggle for recovery for many people in Newtown is impacted by mass shootings nationwide.

Meanwhile in front of the federal building in lower Manhattan, a group of gun-control advocates, elected leaders and families of gun violence victims marked the anniversary by attending a reading of the names of those killed in Newtown.

They voiced their frustration about Congress' resistance to act on gun control, WCBS 880's Alex Silverman reported.

"This is so tiring, so sickening," one woman said.

"We thought that it (the Sandy Hook shooting) would change everything," said Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y. "It had to."

But Maloney said advocates underestimated the National Rifle Association.

"Gun violence is the only area that the Republican majority has passed legislation that bans even studying the issue," she said. "Believe me, no issue is so dangerous that it can't be studied and debated in the United States Congress."

Maloney also commented on several steps Congress could take to help strengthen gun legislation, including taking steps to better screen potential gun owners and banning larger magazines, like the weapons used during the shootings in Newton.

"The bills are filed, all you need is a majority to pass them," Maloney told 1010 WINS. "We haven't been able to achieve that."

(TM and © Copyright 2015 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2015 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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