Newtown, CT, USA
Student, Sandy Hook Elementary School
12/14/2012, Newtown, CT, US
Caroline Previdi, 6, “is probably the happiest addition to Heaven in a long time,” the pastor of her church told hundreds of people sitting and standing in a sea of pink — the little girl’s favorite color — on an occasion no one ever dreamed they’d celebrate.
Caroline’s funeral mass.
“We have a new saint,” Monsignor Robert Weiss declared to a crowd that filled every seat in St. Rose of Lima’s sanctuary and stood two and three deep in every aisle — with an overflow crowd of about 50 listening on hastily-added speakers outside. “She will intercede for us; turn to her,” Weiss told them all. “We have an angel.”
An angel — that word just kept coming up, over and over. In a pew at the very front, holding together as best they could, sat Caroline’s parents, Jeff and Sandy Previdi and her older brother, Walker, surrounded by family, close friends and two big, smiling, full-color blowups of their little angel.
“Our prayers are with you. Our love is with you,” the Rev. Weiss told the Previdis. “Our hearts are with you.”
The noon start of the funeral mass had to be delayed for a few minutes because the 10 a.m. memorial service for one of her classmates, Daniel Barden, still was going on. Hundreds of mourners for Caroline lined up along the side of the church, in the parking lot and on a nearby hillside. Those leaving Daniel’s mass walked past those arriving for Caroline’s. Some people stayed for both.
Inside, not far away from Caroline’s grieving family, sat Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman, religious leaders and elected officials from a host of neighboring communities and hundreds of neighbors and friends. They all came out to celebrate Caroline’s life and her ascension to heaven — along with the other 19 kids and six adults who died in Friday’s shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
Sandy Previdi, who spoke toward the end of the mass, flanked by her husband and her son, called Caroline “our precious angel” and said the little girl — nicknamed “Boo” — “brought joy to so many people.” Caroline “was Walker’s little shadow — sometimes to his dismay,” her mother said, eliciting a few ripples of laughter amid the tears that were flowing around the room.
She recalled how her husband, Jeff, “remembered reaching into his briefcase once while traveling” on business to find a little picture that his daughter had drawn for him, which read, “I love you, Daddy!” Walker Previdi elicited more giggles when he remembered how “passionate” his little sister was about being a New York Yankees fan, and once when the family went to Boston for a game at Fenway Park, “she refused to go in.” But he had people crying again when he said, “We will always remember our little angel. She is now in heaven with our savior…and all of her little friends.”
Earlier, Msgr. Weiss told people, “we gather this morning to remember and to thank God for this beautiful little girl.” He recalled a beautiful, “well-balanced,” always-smiling child “who always had something in her hair,” loved the New York Yankees and the New York Giants, loved art — and to dance and sing.
Weiss recalled how at age 5, Caroline “broke into her piggy bank,” put the money in a bag and brought it to the church to donate to St. Rose’s fund to buy toys for needy kids. “Just 5 years old…” he said.
Caroline “loved to go to school. It was no big deal for her” — and it made no sense for her to be gunned down in Newtown because, after all, “this is a place where people move to be safe,” Weiss said. He praised Caroline’s parents for the family they forged and the love they raised it with, saying, “you filled this child’s life with so much love” — and beyond that, “you taught them how to pray.”
He praised her brother, Walker, telling him, “I saw you there with your arm around your sister” in church. “That doesn’t usually happen,” he said.
“It’s up to us…That’s how things change…” he said.”We all need to ask ourselves, ‘What can I do to make it a better world.'” “So what do we do?” he asked, suggesting the answer is to “stand up and show what we are.”
A close friend of Caroline’s mother, who was identified by her first name, Julie, closed the service by reading a poem someone has written about the tragedy, which has been circulating through town as well as on the Internet, including Facebook.
It’s based on “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas” — but was changed to:
“Twas 11 days before Christmas, around 9:38 When 20 beautiful children stormed through Heaven’s gate Their smiles were contagious, their laughter filled the air… They could hardly believe all the beauty they saw there. They were filled with such joy, they didn’t know what to say They remembered nothing of what had happened earlier that day.
“Where are we?” asked a little girl, as quiet as a mouse “This is Heaven,” declared a small boy. “We’re spending Christmas at God’s house.” What to their wondering eyes did appear, But Jesus, their savior; the children gathered near. He looked at them and smiled and they smiled just the same. Then He opened His arms and He called them by name.
And in that moment was joy,that only Heaven can bring. Those children all flew into the arms of their King. And as they lingered in the warmth of His embrace, One small girl turned and looked at Jesus’ face And as if He could read all the questions she had He gently whispered to her, “I’ll take care of mom and dad.”
Then he looked down on earth, the world far below. He saw all of the hurt, the sorrow and woe. Then He closed His eyes and He outstretched His hand, “Let My power and presence re-enter this land!” “May this country be delivered from the hands of fools” “I’m taking back my nation, I’m taking back my schools!”
Then He and the children stood up without a sound. “Come now my children, let me show you around.” Excitement filled the space, some skipped and some ran, All displaying enthusiasm that only a small child can. And I heard Him proclaim as He walked out of sight, “In the midst of this darkness, I AM STILL THE LIGHT.”