EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — They carried signs expressing gratitude and love. They exchanged high-fives with players and ringed the field during the national anthem.
About 400 residents of Newtown, Conn., attended the New York Giants-Philadelphia Eagles game Sunday. Among them were a few families who lost children in the massacre this month, the Giants said. One was the family of Jack Pinto, the 6-year-old boy buried in a No. 80 jersey of Giants receiver Victor Cruz.
"We certainly wanted to honor and respect them," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said. "We wanted to try to do our part to help them in the healing process. I hope they left with some inspiration today."
The families arrived in nine chartered buses. There were some 200 students from the school system to which Sandy Hook Elementary School belongs.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell greeted the Newtown group in a stadium tunnel. The residents formed a gantlet to welcome players from both teams before the game. Then they held hands during the anthem.
"It was awesome," Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora said after the Giants' 42-7 victory. "Imagine what they went through on that horrific day. For them to come out here and support us as they did, it was an unbelievable feeling. We had a great effort out there for them."
Coughlin and Eagles coach Andy Reid slowly walked the gantlet and said hello to as many people as they could.
The game was played just more than two weeks after the attack that shattered Newtown and reverberated across the country — 20 children and six adults slain in one of the deadliest school shootings in U.S. history.
The team did not allow access to the guests, saying they just wanted to attend the game and enjoy themselves.
The Newtown visitors held at least a dozen hand-made signs in the stadium. One green-and-white sign read, "Sandy Hook: We Choose Love."
Giants fullback Henry Hynoski said he could not have had a better 24th birthday than sharing it with the families from Newtown.
"It was emotional, running out and giving them high-fives and seeing the joy on their faces," Hynoski said. "We played for them. After all they've been through, they were out to see us. It gave us a lot of extra drive to get the win for them."
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