Monsignor Robert Weiss has been pastor of St. Rose of Lima church in Newtown, Conn., for 13 years. Half of Newtown attends his church, so he knew many of the children who were killed in the Sandy Hook school shooting last December 14th.
He was the first religious person on the scene that day. Weiss, known as Father Bob in Newtown, still remembers the sound of shattered glass under his feet, and he still can’t sleep at night.
He tells Here & Now’s Jeremy Hobson that on the first anniversary of the school shooting tomorrow, people should honor the 20 first graders and six educators killed that day by making a difference in the lives of others.
Interview Highlights: Robert Weiss
On his memories from the day of the shooting
“One of the police officers asked if I wanted to come in and bless the children. And at that point I did not realize that there were no surviving children in the building; they had all been taken to the firehouse. And then when I was told what was going on, I declined that offer, I offered a prayer at the door, then I went immediately back to the firehouse where all the other students were. You know, just about half of Newtown belongs to St. Rose of Lima church, so I know many of the families that are attending Sandy Hook school. And I wanted to be with those children until their parents arrived, so I went into the firehouse, and as the teachers were calling roll, I was trying to help them get the children in line, and the teachers began calling the attendants. When I heard a number of names not being called, and I saw a number of parents waiting for their child’s name to be called, I realized the impact of that moment, right then and there.”
On whether his faith has been tested by the shooting
“My faith in God was deepened, because I realized — as did all of this community — that this was an act of evil. This was not the hand of God. I think if I lost anything, it’s just my trust in human beings. You know, I can’t understand why there is so much violence and so much violation of life in this culture in which we are living. It truly is becoming a culture of death. Violence is becoming a way of life more and more, not just in large urban cities, where you almost expect it to happen, but it can happen anywhere, as evidenced by what happened here in Sandy Hook.”
On what people should be thinking about on the anniversary
“I really believe that we can have all the legislation in the world, but until every person really looks into their heart and has that respect for each other, nothing is really going to change in this society. I hope that everyone will take to heart what happened here and what continues to happen every day throughout this country and this world. You know, we’ve asked people to honor these victims by doing acts of kindness in their own communities that day, to get out and to make a difference in the name of these victims. And we’ve already heard some wonderful stories of people and communities and organizations and school communities who have already begun that process, and it’s making a difference in their communities and it’s honoring the victims as well.”
- Robert Weiss, pastor of St. Rose of Lima church in Newtown, Conn.