The Huffington Post Eleanor Goldberg First Posted: 12/26/12 EST Updated: 12/27/12 EST
After enduring what will likely prove to be the darkest period of their careers, police in Newtown, Conn., were given a bright surprise. Officers from the surrounding Connecticut area volunteered to work the Newtown cops' shifts on Christmas so that they could take the day off.
Since the tragic Dec. 14 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, which claimed the lives of 20 children and six adults at the school, Newtown's police officers have been working around the clock --- monitoring traffic, patrolling funerals and investigating the crime scene. But a grassroots effort orchestrated by Connecticut police officers from nearby communities (who managed to keep their plan under wraps) allowed for the mourning town's officers to at least relax on the holiday and spend time with family, CNN reports.
The charitable cops also decided they would go above and beyond excusing the Newtown officers from duty. Those who volunteered to work also offered to donate any money they made Tuesday (including extra holiday pay) to Newtown and Sandy Hook Elementary School charities, the Atlantic Wire reports.
I typo'd one tweet. All other Connecticut police officers are banding together so not one Newtown cop has to work Christmas Day. Beautiful.-- Matt Norlander (@MattNorlander) December 22, 2012
"When something like this happens ... it's a police thing," Lt. Bob Kozlowsky of the Shelton, Connecticut, police department, told CNN. "We'll always try to help out neighboring towns. Any time there's a tragedy, we'll try our best to lend a helping hand."
Getting a "helping hand" was certainly something the area's finest needed after an especially trying 10 days.
"I was devastated, absolutely devastated," Newtown Police Chief Michael Keehoe told CBS News of his feelings upon entering Sandy Hook Elementary School the day of the shooting. " I had no words. ... You feel a sense of guilt that you weren't there quick enough to do that. But I also know that our response stopped that threat where he was and he could not proceed any further."
As Newtown's police officers were given a much-needed break on Tuesday, the area's kids also got some heartwarming surprises from generous do-gooders, according to the Associated Press.
Leading up to Christmas, millions of dollars and thousands of gifts have poured in from around the country and each child had the chance to choose a toy from Edmond Town Hall on Saturday, which was packed with gifts.
"It's their way of grieving," Bobbi Veach, who helped organize the Newtown gift drive, told the AP. "They say, 'I feel so bad, I just want to do something to reach out.' That's why we accommodate everybody we can."