Sadness has taken root far beyond the small US town of Newtown, after a gunman killed 26 in a shooting at an elementary school. US President Obama has demanded 'meaningful action' to prevent such incidents in the future.
As mourners packed a church for a vigil in the small town in Connecticut on Friday after a gunman shot and killed 20 young school children and six adults at an elementary school, messages of support streamed in from world leaders.
French President Francois Hollande sent a message to US President Barack Obama saying the news "horrified me and I wish to express my deep shock and consternation."
A statement from British Prime Minister David Cameron struck a similar tone.
"I was shocked and deeply saddened to hear about today's horrific shooting," he said. "My thoughts are with the injured and those who have lost loved ones. It is heartbreaking to think of those who have had their children robbed from them at such a young age, when they had so much life ahead of them."
Although he has yet to be officially identified by police, it is being widely reported that the gunman was 20-year-old Adam Lanza. The gunman was found dead inside Sandy Hook Elementary School. It was not yet clear if he shot himself or was shot by police.
Second crime scene
The exact details of the shooting are still being pieced together by law enforcement officials, but the gunman appears to have entered the school and opened fire, killing 18 students between the age of five and 10. Six adults, not including the shooter, were also found dead. Two more young students later died at the hospital.
Police are investigating a second crime scene away from the school where another adult was found dead. That victim may be the shooter's mother, who was reportedly shot at the home the two shared before the gunman took her car and drove to the school.
Several hours after the attack, President Barack Obama addressed the US in an emotional televised press conference.
"There is not a parent in America who does not feel the same overwhelming grief I do," he said, pausing at times to gather his emotions and wipe his eyes.
Obama also referred to a spate of recent shootings in the United States, the most recent of which occurred earlier this week in Oregon.
"As a country, we have been through this too many times. Whether it's an elementary school in Newtown, or a shopping mall in Oregon, or a temple in Wisconsin, or a movie theater in Aurora, or a street corner in Chicago - these neighborhoods are our neighborhoods, and these children are our children. And we're going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics."
Friday's shooting in Connecticut is one of the worst to occur in the United States.
The 2007 Virginia Tech mass shooting is currently the worst on record in the United States. A university student shot dead 32 people on campus before killing himself.
mz/pfd (Reuters, AFP, dpa)