Mourners gathered on the steps of St. Mary of the Assumption Church in Katonah under a bright blue sky early Thursday morning to honor the memory of special education teacher Anne Marie Murphy, who died a hero protecting her students at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
Before the 10 a.m. Catholic mass, Murphy's brother-in-law Thomas Newman read a statement to the press.
"Anne Marie's families—the Murphys and the McGowans (Dr. Hugh McGowan and Alice McGowan are her parents)—pray for all the families touched so terribly, that God may help these feelings of great pain and grief pass quickly, that they be replaced with only happy thoughts and joyous memories of those we have lost. Thank you and God bless."
The family of one of Murphy's students, Dylan Hockley, remembered her this week as well.
"We take great comfort in knowing that Dylan was not alone when he died," said his parents, Ian and Nicole Hockley, in a statement.
Among the mourners spilling out of the packed church well after the service began were teaches and older students from Newtown wearing Newtown football and lacrosse jackets.
Roman Catholic Cardinal Timothy Dolan led the mass, and compared her to Jesus.
"Like Jesus, Annie laid down her life for her friends," Dolan said, according to media reports. "Like Jesus, Annie's life and death brings light, truth, goodness and love to a world often shrouded in darkness, evil, selfishness and death."
Murphy's family requested the media respect their wish for private funeral services. Earlier this week, Patch asked friends of the family to share remembrances and condolences.
Peter and Kevin Helmes, who are partners in the Helmes Group in Katonah, grew up next door to the McGowan family and both remember "Annie" as "one sweetheart of a girl."
Both said Murphy was like a sister to them.
"We were one of 8 kids, she was one of 7, we were all like family," said Kevin Helmes. "Annie was always happy, and so outgoing. She will be well missed."
He also said family members were taking comfort in their faith and the fact that they were told by first responders she died protecting children.
Peter Helmes remembered taking piano lessons from Murphy when they were children. "She taught me Heart and Soul and many songs I remember to this day. He said though the McGowan kids went to John F. Kennedy Catholic High School and the Helmes attended John Jay High School, they remained close.
"Annie would watch us and her brothers play in the band we had, all through high school. She would do anything for anybody—I know she has been a rock for her own four children and will be missed."
Bedford Supervisor Lee Roberts, herself a longtime Katonah resident, said she knew Hugh McGowan from his work on a volunteer board in town. "They are a lovely family," she said. "The Bedford community extends its support and sympathy to the McGowans and all those who have been touched by this terrible tragedy."
Murphy graduated from St. Mary’s School in Katonah, John F. Kennedy High School in Somers and Southern Connecticut State University. Her family said she will be remembered for her love of the arts, walks in the outdoors and most importantly, her love of her family.
Murphy is survived by her husband, Michael, her children: Kelly, Colleen, Paige and Thomas, her parents: Dr. Hugh and Alice McGowan of Katonah; siblings Mary Pat of Ridgefield; Alice of Newtown; Catherine of Katonah; Hugh of Pawling; Dr. Thomas of Somers and Peter of Troy, NY.
Memorials may be made to Autism Speaks, 1060 State Rd., 2nd Floor, Princeton, NJ 08540, www.autismspeaks.org.