People throughout the region sent their thoughts and prayers for the victims of Friday’s school shooting in Newtown, Conn.
On Friday morning, a 20-year-old gunman opened fire inside of Sandy Hook Elementary, massacring 26 people, including 20 children. Authorities said the gunman was found dead in the school with a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
The shooting affected many people throughout the nation, including several in western Washington.
A community in Monroe gathered by candlelight Friday evening to pray for the victims.
KIRO 7 Eyewitness News reporter Chris Francis spoke with neighbors, friends and families who were affected by the shootings in Connecticut.
“I have a fourth grader, and I was in her classroom when this was unfolding. My immediate thought was get her home, put her in a bedroom, close the door, stay there forever,” said parent Sally Petty.
Petty was one of the many parents who said they didn’t know what to do and they felt helpless.
“You send your children to school, and you think that they’re going to be safe. And to have something like this happen just triggers the fear that every parent has and every person has,” said Holly Teige, another parent.
“Kids need to be kids, and you can’t raise them with the fear that this will happen,” Petty said.
Children lit tiny candles in Monroe, to signify hope in a time of profound sadness and loss.
Many also gathered Friday night at Seattle’s Saint James Cathedral to pray for the victims.
The Kingston family drove from Bothell to pray for the children so far away, but so close to their hearts.
“As parents of young children, we just felt called to come and worship collectively with other people that were sad and grieving,” said parent Brooke Kingston. "We also were lacking a way to explain it to our own family, and we just felt like being together with our faith community was the right thing to do tonight."
The Machado’s from Kent aren't members of the parish, but said they wanted to bring their son to pray.
"We told him we were going to come to a church to pray for some kids," said parent Randy Machado.
Through the prayer, the parents hope to provide a little comfort for their own kids during this troubling time.
KIRO 7 spoke with former FBI agent Kath Leodler, who believes parents need to demand more from their school administrators.
“The schools in Washington have great active shooter plans and lockdown plans that they have to practice annually. That is a response, not a preventative measure,” said Leodler. “We have to listen to that inner voice that is speaking to us, our animal instincts and trust them. When we see something and our gut tells us, ‘It’s not right,’ we really have to take action.”
Leodler’s experience tells her that law enforcement alone cannot prevent these violent acts.
Parents told KIRO 7 adding metal detectors, armed guards or more cameras can quickly make a school feel like a prison.