SOUTH WINDSOR, Conn (CBS 2) – Hundreds gathered for a mass in South Windsor, Conn., Wednesday night to remember the eight people killed in the massacre at a beer distribution plant earlier this week.
The service at St. Margaret Mary Church came just hours after police released the 911 calls made during the shooting. As a community came together with hugs and tears, numbed and stunned by sadness.
“Why did this have to happen to these people, and to my friend?” asked Terri Rizzo, a friend of Greg Pepin, just one of the nine victims of the fatal rampage.
That was the unanswerable question Wednesday night, as friends and families of the victims stood huddled, shoulder to shoulder, in a standing-room only service dedicated to the lives snatched away.
“When you see these…ordinary folks, working people, trying to do the best they can, when something like this hits out of the blue, it’s just unthinkable,” said Conn. State Representative Denise Merrill.
Alas, the unthinkable did occur early Tuesday morning, when police say Omar Thornton walked into the beer distribution plant and began firing.
“It just makes me realize how crazy people can be,” said Lucy Gorman, a friend of one of the victims.
Amidst the massacre, one of the victims, Craig Pepin, was called a hero.
“He saw the man coming in with the guns and told everyone to run out the back door,” said Rev. Daniel Sullivan. “And I am sure that he tried to stop this man from reaching those who were going out that door. And the man shot him in the head, and killed him.”
Seven of Pepin’s co-workers would also fall at the hands of Thornton, including Louis Felder, who was buried Wednesday in accordance with Jewish law.
James Battaglio, a spokesman for the family that runs the beer company, said they were blindsided by the unexplainable.
“They didn’t lose employees,” he said Wednesday night. “They lost family. It hit them extremely hard, as you can imagine, and everyone is sort of in a state of shock and mystified.”
They weren’t alone.
“You can’t forget these guys,” said Roger Whitham, South Windsor resident. “And the goodness that they did.”
In the coming days, more loved ones will gather at local churches to say goodbye, while trying to come to grips with the evil that is left behind from the worst workplace mass murder that America has ever seen.