Family members of the 26 victims of the Sandy Hook school shooting have welcomed the opening of a new memorial in Newtown, Connecticut, nearly 10 years after the deadliest school shooting in modern US history.
The long-awaited monument opened to the public on Sunday without a ceremony, in keeping with Newtown’s tradition of marking anniversaries of the shooting without fanfare.
Designed by Dan Affleck and Ben WaldoIt, the focus of the Sandy Hook Permanent Memorial is a sycamore tree in the middle of a reflection pool.
The names of the 26 victims are engraved in the top of a stone wall next to the pool.
The monument is surrounded by a “circling network” of paths through 5.3 acres of woodland and meadows, according to the designers’ website.
Jennifer Hubbard, whose 6-year-old daughter Catherine died in the shooting, told the Associated Press it “took her breath away” to see her daughter’s name enscribed on the memorial.
“I think that the memorial is so perfectly appointed in honouring and providing a place of contemplation and reflection for a day that really changed the country,” Ms Hubbard told the AP.
Nelba Marquez-Greene, whose daughter, Ana Grace, 6, died in the shooting, tweeted that 10 years had passed in a “lifetime and a blink”.
“Ana Grace, we used to wait for you to come home. Now you wait for us,” she tweeted.
Relatives of victims were offered a private tour of the memorial on Saturday, the AP reported.
Visitors to the site are greeted with a plaque featuring a quote from a speech made by former president Barack Obama when he attended a vigil in Newtorn two days after the shooting.
“Here in Newtown, I come to offer the love and prayers of a nation,” the quote from Mr Obama reads. “I am very mindful that mere words cannot match the depths of your sorrow, nor can they heal your wounded hearts.”
The memorial cost $3.7m, with the bill split between the Newtown residents and the State Bond Commission.
The 10th anniversary of the shooting is on 14 December.