Newtown begins heartbreaking process of saying goodbye
NEWTOWN, Conn. – At a time when Newtown should be reveling in holiday cheer, the grief-stricken community is beginning the grim task of lowering little coffins into the ground.
Children were among the mourners at 6-year-old Jack Pinto’s funeral.
Noah Pozner, another 6-year-old whose family said he could get what he wanted just by batting his long eyelashes, will also be buried.
And the heartbreaking ritual will continue for days.
Jessica Rekos on Tuesday. Benjamin Wheeler on Thursday. Madeleine Hsu, Friday. All of them 6 years old.
But even after the families of the 20 children and six educators killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School say their last goodbyes, it’s unlikely that the tight-knit Connecticut community will ever be the same.
“It’s incomprehensible, the pain here,” resident Darla Henggeler said. “You can’t imagine. We’re still in shock. I can’t let my heart go there because it’s so overwhelming.
“I think once it settles in, I think my heart will break.”
Clues about what happened, but not why
It’s possible that no one will ever know what led gunman Adam Lanza to kill his mother, Nancy, in their home before taking her guns and raining hell on Sandy Hook Elementary School and eventually killing himself.
“There was no connection between the shooter and the school,” Connecticut State Police Lt. J. Paul Vance said Monday, citing school authorities in Newtown.
But one mother told CNN Monday that the gunman was once a student at Sandy Hook. Cynthia Jaroszewksi said the shooter was in first and third grade there with her daughter, Rebecca.
As the investigation continues, two wounded adults who survived the shooting could play a key role in helping reconstruct what happened, Vance said.
The adults “were wounded in their lower extremities” and are recovering from their injuries, Vance told reporters. Investigators will not release their names, he said, because they are witnesses in the case.
Earlier, Vance had said only one person was injured in the shooting. A parent who was at Sandy Hook during the shooting said Friday that the school’s vice principal was injured. The second wounded survivor’s identity was unclear Monday.
“Our investigators will, in fact, speak with them when it’s medically appropriate,” Vance said, “and certainly they will shed a great deal of light on the facts and circumstances of this tragic investigation.”
Authorities were searching smashed computer parts seized from the gunman’s home for clues that might shed light on the shooting, including e-mails he might have sent and websites he might have visited, a law enforcement official said Monday.
Officials were tight-lipped about details of their investigation. Hundreds of troopers, detectives and other police are piecing together clues, Vance said, analyzing every round of ammunition and every weapon, in addition to every detail of the gunman’s medical history.
“I’m not at liberty to discuss any of the information so far uncovered, but suffice it to say … we will cover every single facet,” he said.
While an investigation continued at the school Monday, moving trucks arrived to take supplies and equipment to Chalk Hill Elementary in the neighboring town of Monroe, where authorities have said students from Sandy Hook will resume their studies.
But it’s unclear when classes will start again for the school’s students. On Monday, Newtown Police Lt. George Sinko said classes for Sandy Hook’s students would remain suspended “until further notice.”
Obama: “These tragedies must end”
In Newtown High School’s packed auditorium on Sunday, President Barack Obama offered his condolences, recited the names of the children slain at Sandy Hook and pledged to work toward stopping such shootings in the future.
“In the coming weeks, I will use whatever power this office holds to engage my fellow citizens — from law enforcement to mental health professionals, to parents and educators — in an effort aimed at preventing more tragedies like this,” he said.
The president didn’t mention specific steps he would take, but he said the country has failed to do everything it can to protect youths from such immense tragedy.
“Can we honestly say we’re doing enough to keep our children — all of them — safe from harm?” he said, adding that “if we don’t get that right, we don’t get anything right.”
“If we’re honest with ourselves, the answer is no.”
Obama said it was the fourth time he’s seen a community torn apart by a mass shooting during his presidency: Tucson, Aurora, Oak Creek, and now, Newtown.
“These tragedies must end,” he said. “And to end them, we must change.”
Shooting sparks reactions nationwide
The tragic shooting has touched nerves nationwide, with some holding vigils and building makeshift memorials to support the victims and others calling for political action.
Participants in a candlelight vigil in New York City passed around a petition calling for greater gun control, Joe Josephs told CNN’s iReport.
John Licata told CNN’s iReport that the need for better vetting before people buy guns is clear, and authorities need to take things a step further.
“We have to get our public officials to do something about this,” he said. “One of those issues is banning assault weapons. … I am a believer in the Second Amendment, but there has to be a ban.”
Others said more guns were needed.
Jameson Riley told CNN’s iReport that the shooting shows the need for more armed guards in schools. Riley, a gun owner, said that the recent mass shootings have made him consider getting a concealed weapon permit.
“I would absolutely carry a concealed weapon. I have a 2-year-old daughter, and she is the light of my life. And I would like to protect her,” he said. “It is horrible to think that we have come to a path where this is necessary, but I think it is fixable.”
Relatives carry on the victims’ voices
As more details about the 20 children and six educators emerge, so do stories of heroism and joyous memories of lives cut far too short.
When the gunfire rang out, 27-year-old Victoria Soto scrambled to move her students away from her first-grade classroom door and shielded them in the corner of the room.
It’s not surprising that Soto would risk her life to save others, her mother said.
“She was truly selfless,” Donna Soto said Sunday. “She would not hesitate to think to save anyone else before herself and especially children. She loved them more than life.”
Six-year-old Emilie Parker was a budding artist who would have been the first to console the victims had she not been killed, her father said.
“She loved to use her talents to touch the lives of everyone that she came in contact with,” Robbie Parker said. “She always carried around her markers and pencils so she never missed an opportunity to draw a picture or make a card for those around her.”
Emilie’s father also offered his condolences to all the families affected.
“This includes the family of the shooter,” he said. “I can’t imagine how hard this experience must be for you, and I want you to know that our family, and our love and support goes out to you as well.”
Jack was an avid sports fan, and one of his idols, New York Giants receiver Victor Cruz, ran across an NFL football field with “Jack Pinto My Hero” written on his shoe on Sunday.
Noah loved playing with his siblings, especially his twin sister. They still don’t know how their brother died, Noah’s aunt said.
“How do you tell them that’s how their brother died?” Victoria Haller asked. “It’s the unthinkable, really.”
CNN’s Kyung Lah, David Ariosto, Susan Candiotti, Wayne Drash and Eric Marrapodi contributed to this report from Newtown, Connecticut. CNN’s Carol Cratty, David Williams, Dana Ford, Greg Botelho, David Ariosto, Candy Crowley and Chuck Johnston also contributed to this report.
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