PITTSFIELD -- As parents and children throughout the world mourn the loss of the 26 victims of the school massacre in Newtown Conn., on Friday, people in the Berkshires are finding ways to help and comfort the victims' families.
Local musician Randy Cormier has written a song, "Christmas in Heaven," in honor of the 20 young children, and the school faculty and staff who died.
Friday afternoon, Cormier -- not knowing about the tragedy -- was waiting in line to pick up his 6-year-old son from school.
"I had just come from the movie theater and hadn't looked at the news or anything," Cormier said. "Then I got a call from my girlfriend in tears telling me about the shooting."
As soon as they hung up, Cormier scrolled through the news on his iPhone. As his own tears welled up, the death toll was rising.
"It was unfathomable," he said. "I picked up my son, but I didn't tell him about what happened. He wouldn't understand."
The two drove home. While Cormier's son watched cartoons on TV, he scrolled through more news feeds on his laptop, then began staring at the family Christmas tree. A chorus and lyrics began to play inside his head, he said.
"I saw the presents underneath the tree and I started thinking about the victim's families and the presents under their trees with the names already written on them -- gifts that won't get to be opened," he said.
Guitar in hand, Cormier set to work on "Christmas
"Christmastime in heaven is a line I've had in my head for about three years," he said.
Thousands of YouTube views later, Cormier is hopeful the song brings some sort of the comfort to everyone affected by the tragedy.
"If it can help anybody for the three minutes it's on, then it'll be a success," he said.
On Monday, Cormier and fellow musician Brian Benlien recorded the track at Benlien's home studio, so the song can be posted to iTunes for purchase. Cormier said the proceeds will go to families of the Newtown victims. CDs are also being produced, which Cormier hopes to put in local businesses throughout the Berkshires, to sell for $5.
He said he'll also be selling the CD at his gigs.
"I still get choked up thinking about it. Picturing the parents waiting for their children that weren't going to come back out alive," he said.
Many people have driven to the small community to offer whatever help they can.
Suzi Banks Baum, of Great Barrington, traveled to Newtown on Tuesday to help Beth Howard, AKA the "Pie Evangelist," give out 250 homemade pies.
Ellen Lanciano, of Lenox, drove to Newtown on Monday with a group to offer condolences.
She said the small town "could be any rural village anywhere in the world," and that while tragedy had weighed heavy on everyone, there was an equal amount of empathy and willingness to help others.
"Grief counselors, clergy, ‘petting care' dogs walking up and down the streets, [people] just greeting each other and exchanging sentiments," she said. "Nowhere in my life have I been in such a safe, caring and united environment as Newtown [on Monday] afternoon."
Cormier said as the grief processing is just beginning, there are many who may not ever recover from their loss.
"Nothing will heal those families' wounds, but maybe they'll be able to identify with a lyric and take solace that their children are in heaven," Cormier said.