Funerals begin for Newtown victims as U.S. schools confront tragedy

FAIRFIELD/NEWTOWN, Connecticut Tue Dec 18, 2012 5:04am IST

1 of 5. Traffic moves past a memorial of 27 small U.S. flags, for victims of a shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, along Interstate 84 in Newtown, Connecticut December 17, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Joshua Lott

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FAIRFIELD/NEWTOWN, Connecticut (Reuters) - One boy was buried in his hero's football jersey in a small white coffin. Balloons and a teddy bear welcomed mourners to the funeral of his first grade schoolmate.

The two funerals on Monday ushered in what will be a week of memorial services and burials for the 20 children and six adults massacred at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.

The shooting sent waves of anxiety across the country on the first school day since a 20-year-old gunman opened fire on the students and teachers in the close-knit community last week.

Within hours of the school starting bell on Monday, lockdowns were declared in nearby Connecticut and New York towns on fears of danger. And in southern California, Indiana and Tennessee, authorities arrested men on Sunday for making threats against schools.

Newtown's schools remained closed after a weekend of mourning that followed Adam Lanza's shooting spree on Friday that claimed 28 lives, including his mother's and his own.

Miniature caskets marked the first wave of funerals as Noah Pozner and Jack Pinto, both 6 years old, were laid to rest on Monday afternoon. Noah was the youngest victim of rampage and his twin sister, Arielle, escaped unhurt.

Under chilly, leaden skies, police and bomb-sniffing dogs conducted a precautionary search of the street lined with white balloons outside the Fairfield, Connecticut, funeral home where Noah's brief life was remembered.

A teddy bear and bouquet of white flowers lay at the base of an oak tree outside the Jewish service that was packed with mourners, including Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy, U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal and Senator-elect Chris Murphy.

"Every time I told Noah, 'I love you,' he always answered, 'Not as much as I love you,'" his mother, Veronique Pozner, told mourners at his funeral, recalled Rabbi Edgar Gluck after the burial service.

In Noah's obituary in the Newtown Bee newspaper, his parents and four siblings said, "Noah was an impish, larger-than-life little boy. Everything he did conveyed action and energy through love. He was the light of our family, a little soul devoid of spite and meanness."

At Jack Pinto's funeral in Newtown, about a half dozen children wearing a wrestling's club gold medals took off the awards and gave them to their teammate's parents. A New York Giants fan, Jack was wearing a red-and-white jersey with receiver Victor Cruz's number 80 as he lay in an open white casket at the service. During Sunday's game, Cruz wore shoes with "R.I.P. Jack Pinto" written on the side.

"Jack was an incredibly loving and vivacious young boy, appreciated by all who knew him for his lively and giving spirit and steely determination," his parents, Dean and Tricia Pinto, and brother said in his obituary in the Newtown Bee.

Active in sports from football to skiing, he was remembered "for the immeasurable joy he brought to all who had the pleasure of knowing him, a joy whose wide reach belied his six short years."

Their funerals came a day after President Barack Obama visited Newtown to comfort the families, promising action to stop future tragedies. Obama's remarks were heralded on Monday morning by relatives of teacher Victoria Soto, 27, who was killed as she tried to protect her first-grade students.

"He really made us feel like she really was a hero and that everyone should know it," her younger brother, Carlos Soto, told CBS "This Morning."

Later Monday, White House spokesman said Obama's plan for action to curb violence includes gun control "but is far from all of it."

All the dead children were 6 or 7 years old. The school principal of Sandy Hook Elementary, the school psychologist and four teachers were also gunned down.

With Newtown schools closed on Monday, about 200 volunteers set up an indoor play day to keep children busy on a drizzly Monday. Inside a local youth academy, whose doorway was marked by holiday wreaths and 26 black ribbons, volunteers urged a boy wearing Spider-Man sneakers, a girl carrying a stuffed Dalmatian toy and about 1,000 other children to join in athletics, board games and arts and crafts.

A more detailed picture of Lanza's stunning attack has emerged.

After killing his mother, Nancy Lanza, at home, Adam Lanza shot his way into the school. He had attended Sandy Hook as a child, according to former classmates, but authorities said on Monday he had no current connection with the school.

Police said Lanza was armed with hundreds of bullets in high-capacity magazines of about 30 rounds each for the Bushmaster AR 15 rifle and two handguns he carried into the school, and had a fourth weapon, a shotgun, in his car outside. He killed himself in the school.

In Washington, a growing number of U.S. lawmakers - including a leading pro-gun senator - called for a look at curbing assault weapons like the one used in the massacre, a sign that attitudes toward gun control could be shifting.

"Never before have we seen our babies slaughtered. This never happened in America, that I can recall, ever seeing this kind of carnage," said Senator Joe Manchin, a West Virginia Democrat who has earned top marks from the gun industry. "This has changed where we go from here." (Additional reporting by Peter Rudegeair, Ed Krudy, Dan Burns, Hilary Russ, Dan Trotta and; Susan Heavey in Washington; Writing by Barbara Goldberg; Editing by Doina Chiacu and Jackie Frank)

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