SOUTHBURY, Conn. — As she recalled the afternoon of Dec. 14, Nicole Paquette, past president of the Connecticut Funeral Directors Association, stopped to compose herself, but the tears kept running down her face.
"I will never forget reading the fax," Paquette said. "We all knew young children were killed, but when we saw their names, then the comma, and then the numbers 6 or 7 after their names, for their age, we all broke down."
Paquette and dozens of funeral directors who served or volunteered to help the families of 20 students and six educators killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown held a moving service Saturday during which they recalled the shooting and acknowledged how they all came together for the unfathomable work before them.
About 80 funeral directors from at least 11 Connecticut homes that served the Newtown families and others who volunteered their services shed tears and hugged each other as they gathered in Southbury for a service of remembrance and reflection.
John F. Cascio, executive director of the funeral directors association, began the service by reading the name of each of the victims.
For the association's president, Pasquale S. Folino, the images are unforgettable.
"For all of us that were involved with Newtown, the names and faces of those children are forever etched in our memories," he said.
Monsignor Robert "Bob" Weiss of St. Rose of Lima Church in Newtown, where eight of the children's funerals were held, had praise for the funeral directors.
"You are truly stewards of your profession," he said. "The families found hope and great consolation in your compassion and attention you paid to every last detail. You were there for those families."