Dozens gathered inside Holy Cross Catholic Church, including Frieda MacDonald. MacDonald's son, Steven Hoyle, was shot and killed more than a year ago.
MacDonald heard about the Newtown families' requests for the media to give them space to grieve.
"I understand that completely, because it is so painful sometimes, just talking with people, when you're in that much pain. You're weary. It's just too much work," MacDonald said.
On the grim anniversary of the shooting deaths of 20 children and six school staffers, there was talk at the local vigil of ways to reduce the risk of gun violence.
Some criticized the state law allowing concealed carry permit holders to bring guns to parks and playgrounds.
"Unfortunately in North Carolina, the General Assembly has restricted localities' ability to pass any kind of gun restrictions," said Durham City Council member Steve Schewel.
Not everyone at the service was in favor of gun restrictions. A man standing across the street called himself a protester and said he was thrown out.
"I am a fairly well known local activist for gun rights. So the organizer recognized me at the door and kicked me out," protester Sean Sorrentino said. "Why do they want to take away my rights in order to feel better about something some crazy person did?"