Newtown Begins Heartbreaking Ritual of Saying Goodbyes

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NEWTOWN, Conn. — At a time when Newtown should be reveling in holiday cheer, the grief-stricken community will begin the grim task of lowering little coffins into the ground.

Jack Pinto, 6, whose love for sports ran the gamut, but none so deep as football, will be laid to rest Monday.

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 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.

Two wounded adults who survived the school shooting could play a key role in helping investigators reconstruct what happened Friday, Connecticut State Police Lt. J. Paul Vance said Monday.

The adults “suffered gunshot wounds and are recovering,” Vance told reporters. He did not provide additional details.

On Friday, a parent who was at Sandy Hook during the shooting said the school’s vice principal had been injured.

Previously, Vance had said that only one person was wounded. 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 tight-lipped about details of their investigation Monday. 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.

Authorities now know the gunman used “an assault weapon” to “literally (shoot) an entrance into the building,” Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy said Sunday.nt: I saw bullets going past

Using a Bushmaster AR-15 “assault-type rifle,” the 20-year-old fired multiple magazines — each of which contained 30 bullets — to gun down the adults and children in two classrooms, Connecticut State Police Lt. J. Paul Vance said.

All the victims were shot between three and 11 times. The perpetrator had no known criminal record.

His father, Peter Lanza, released a statement Saturday saying his family is “grieving along with all those who have been affected by this enormous tragedy.”

“Our hearts go out to the families and friends who lost loved ones and to all those who were injured,” the father said. “We are in a state of disbelief and trying to find whatever answers we can. We, too, are asking why.”

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?

“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 iReoprt 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. He says that he’s a gun owner and that the recent mass shootings have made him consider getting permit to carry a concealed weapon.

“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.”

Noah, one of the boys who will be laid to rest Monday, loved playing with his siblings — especially his twin sister. They still don’t know how their brother passed away, Noah’s aunt said.

“How do you tell them that’s how their brother died?” Haller asked. “It’s the unthinkable, really.”

It’s just as unbearable as the thought of a parent burying a child.

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  • UsMcBaldie

    WHY DON'T YOU STOP VIOLENT GAMES… TOO ANY CHILDREN UNDER 18… thats the problem. NOT GUNS, u allow children to access to games that influence there mind w/killing is the way to release stress. Stop trying to band guns… everything and anything can be a weapon. We should just walk around w/handcuffs on, PARENTS stop games w/any type of violence to anyone under 18. NO TOLERANCE

    mandate schools to have Taser guns, Principal & vice prin. w/shotgun bean bags. Stop violent movies in public channels.

    • Not A Coward

      Out of curiosity I searched for a violent video game where I was the shooter to kill people. I was shocked at the reality of it. I chose my deadly automatic assault weapon. Me the shooter, started firing on people in the street, (like a target shoot hitting ducks that they have at carnivals to win a prize), but this was to shoot and kill people for NO reason.
      When I shot them blood flowed out as they fell dead to the ground.

      Many kids are NOT brought up with any knowledge religion, learning right from wrong and that killing is a cardinal sin. Human life being precious and valued.
      Our US Govt sends the wrong message and influences the minds of the young too with their daily killings and invasions to do so in foreign countries where mostly kids are killed and leaders assassinated and their prize being the power to control and profit from the countries resources and this is wrong, so wrong.
      Plus experimenting and giving Rx drugs to kids and adults with emotional problems are forced to take with side effects that cause violence. This too, is a major problem in our societies.
      To ban all guns in America will create a new war, where the Cartels overtake with their billions of dollars and black market and the average, innocent citizen will be defenseless to protect themselves. Since civilization began, bearing arms for ones protection is human nature, as tigers have teeth, weight and claws to defend them.

  • darrin

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  • Not A Coward

    Shooting and killing numerous human beings at a time dead with blood flowing out as a sport in a video game is NOT a turkey shoot. It's morally wrong and desensitizing young minds period.

  • mark

    why don't you ever see black people mourning the loss of the people and children that are killed in these mad gunmen public type killings?…nor do i ever see mexicans mourning the loss of these children either…WTF?……wonder why that is?…….why is it only white people crying on the tv news?…….

  • Laura

    I agree with the posters above about the violent video games. The problem is, most mentally unstable or ill people don't have friends, live in isolation and spend their time entertaining themselves by obsessively playing these violent video games. They, of all people, are the last ones that should be having their minds influenced by these games when they can't separate "game" from reality, their minds are already ill or disabled and therefore more susceptible, and they are further desensitized to violence when all you do is kill people all day in a realistic video game. I am not for the violent video games either, but a person playing two hours a day is not what we have to worry about. It's those who obsessively play it all hours of the day because they have nothing else going on in their lives. The games also give them a sense of power, purpose and self identity which they don't have in the "real world". It is a recipe for disaster. Research has proven that playing these violent games incessantly actually changes the chemistry in your brain, not to mention that if you are already mentally unstable there is nothing good that will come out of it.

  • Laura

    not to mention mental health background checks should be required in addition to criminal background checks. If you want a gun that badly, you should be willing to allow that. they do it for cops because of their access to guns, so it only makes sense. in addition, no need for assault rifles…not even for hunting. if you need an assault rifle to shoot a deer, you shouldn't be hunting.

    • Not A Coward

      Background checks of mental illness would NOT be good nowadays with half the population being on some sort of psychiatric drug for depression giving an array of drugs like Prozac, an SSRI that can cause violence and suicides. And children in Kindergarten forced to take Ritalin, an amphetamine type stimulant drug for ADHD. Doctors are making up new labels and saying it's a mental disorder for simply being Shy, or lonely and prescribing these same type drugs that are making them mentally ill.
      If an average American sought help for any emotional problem they're automatically added to a database and labeled as mentally ill and to deny them a gun would be an evasion of privacy and their rights.
      Perhaps a longer waiting period for someone wanting a gun for protection or hunting would be a deterrent for criminally minded ones.
      It's like if even all your doors are locked in your home, it won't matter to a robber, he'll find a way to do it if he's desperate enough.
      Just 2 weeks ago a kid with a mental disorder shot and killed his teacher father at his school with a Bow & Arrow. When there's a will, there's a way.

  • Bruno

    Yes, Mark! only white people are mourning the dead of this horrible tragedy, you must be that guy at Walmart and your wife wears that t shirt that says "IM WITH STUPID" this will explain your idiotic comment.

    • Angie

      I have seen EVERY RACE mourn when there is a loss of life & your idiotic racism is part of what is wrong with this country. Violence, emotions & ignorance is in EVERY race. Do your homework before u slander, & stop being ignorant.
      Gun control isn’t the real problem here, & neither are video games, it’s the parents responsibility to censor what their children can & cannot play. The problem here is if we carry weapons, we go to prison, therefore taking away our moral right to protect those in our care. I would rather go to jail for possession than watch someone in my care die brutally due to my ” legal inability” to protect them. Thanks but I’ll take my chances with prison time.

  • mark

    i have not heard one word from the black population about these killings,nor from the mexican community,,,,not a frikin word!…..and i dont think we ever will…..have you bruno?….where are they at on any subject in america that doesnt effect them as a race?,,,,they are all nowhere to be found!…..we are seperate societys,,,we are not a united states!….there is nothing united about us!..not at all!!!!!….nor do i personally think it ever will be ever again!