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Sandy Hook Elementary Shooting: Funerals held for Jack Pinto and Noah Pozner

6:05 PM, Dec 17, 2012   |    comments
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Jack Pinto (left) and Noah Pozner, both 6, are the first victims laid to rest in the Sandy Hook Elementary school shooting. Photos courtesy The Associated Press.

 


 


A Connecticut town in mourning over the mass murder of 20 children and six adults at an elementary school held funerals for two young victims Monday.

Family, friends and townspeople streamed to two funeral homes for Jack Pinto, a 6-year-old New York Giants fan who might be buried in New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz's jersey, and Noah Pozner, a boy of the same age who liked to figure out how things worked mechanically.

SHARE: Remembering the Sandy Hook victims

At Jack's service, hymns rang out from inside the funeral home.

In front of the funeral home where relatives were mourning Noah, well-wishers placed two teddy bears, a bouquet of white flowers and a single red rose at the base of a maple tree.

"He was just a really lively, smart kid," said Noah's uncle Alexis Haller, of Woodinville, Wash. "He would have become a great man, I think. He would have grown up to be a great dad."

 

Noah's twin sister was also at Sandy Hook Elementary School during Friday's rampage but was in a different classroom and survived the shooting.

The gunman, 20-year-old Adam Lanza, was carrying an arsenal of hundreds of rounds of especially deadly ammunition, authorities said Sunday - enough to kill just about every student in the school if given enough time, raising the chilling possibility that the bloodbath could have been even worse.

The shooter decided to kill himself when he heard police closing in about 10 minutes into Friday's attack, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said Sunday.

Portraits of the victims became clearer over the weekend as families began coping with the tragic losses.

Robbie Parker, the father of 6-year-old Emilie, honored his oldest daughter in a moving tribute Saturday, tearfully describing her as the "type of person that could light up a room ... she always had something kind to say about anybody and her love and the strength that she gave us and the example that she showed us is remarkable.

Six-year-old Jessica Rekos was remembered as a horse lover who had asked Santa for new cowgirl boots and a cowgirl hat. In a statement, her family wrote about their "rock."

"We called her our little CEO for the way she carefully thought and planned everything. We cannot imagine our life without her."

Ana Marquez-Greene, who even at the age of 6 displayed an angelic singing voice in home movies released by her family, was mourned by her father, jazz musician Jimmy Greene, in a statement that read "As much as she's needed her and missed by her mother, brother and me, Ana beat us all to paradise. I love you, sweetie girl."

There were also the women whose passion for their jobs cost them their lives.

Dawn Hochsprung's pride in Sandy Hook Elementary was clear. She regularly tweeted photos from her time as principal there, giving indelible glimpses of life at a place now known for tragedy. Just this week, it was an image of fourth-graders rehearsing for their winter concert; days before that, the tiny hands of kindergartners exchanging play money at their makeshift grocery store.

She viewed her school as a model, telling The Newtown Bee in 2010 that "I don't think you could find a more positive place to bring students to every day." She had worked to make Sandy Hook a place of safety, too, and in October, the 47-year-old Hochsprung shared a picture of the school's evacuation drill with the message "safety first." When the unthinkable came, she was ready to defend.

Officials said she died while lunging at the gunman in an attempt to overtake him.

"She had an extremely likable style about her," said Gerald Stomski, first selectman of Woodbury, where Hochsprung lived and had taught. "She was an extremely charismatic principal while she was here."

Twenty-nine-year-old Rachel D'Avino was due to be engaged on Christmas Eve. D'Avino was a behavioral therapist who had only recently started working at the school where she was killed, according to friend Lissa Lovetere Stone.

Police told her family that she shielded one of the students during the rampage, Lovetere Stone said.

 

Thirty-year-old Lauren Rousseau's family said in a statement: "Lauren wanted to be a teacher from before she even went to kindergarten. We will miss her terribly and will take comfort knowing that she had achieved that dream."

The family of Vicki Soto, 27, also takes some comfort in knowing that her last act was for the children she loved, shielding them with her body.

"Whatever details transpired in that classroom, we know in our hearts that she was protecting those kids from that shooter," cousin Jim Wiltsie said.

Those are just some of the personal stories that emerged as Newtown and the nation as a whole came to grips with Friday's attack.

At the interfaith service in Newtown on Sunday evening, President Obama said he would use "whatever power this office holds" to engage with law enforcement, mental health professionals, parents and educators in an effort to prevent more tragedies like Newtown.

"What choice do we have?" Mr. Obama said on a stark stage that held only a small table covered with a black cloth, candles and the presidential podium. "Are we really prepared to say that we're powerless in the face of such carnage, that the politics are too hard?"

The president first met privately with families of the victims and with the emergency personnel who responded to the shooting. He signed a picture of Soto for her family and credited her and her fellow faculty members killed in the attack in his speech as responding "as we all hope we might respond in such terrifying circumstances."

Police and firefighters got hugs and standing ovations when they entered for the public vigil, as did Mr. Obama.

"We needed this," said the Rev. Matt Crebbin, senior minister of the Newtown Congregational Church. "We need to be together here in this room. ... We needed to be together to show that we are together and united."

As Mr. Obama read some of the names of victims early in his remarks, sobs resonated throughout the hall. He closed by slowly reading the first names of each of the 26 victims.

"God has called them all home," he said. "For those of us who remain, let us find the strength to carry on and make our country worthy of their memory."

State police Lt. Paul Vance said that it could be months before police turn Sandy Hook Elementary School back over to the district.

Newtown officials couldn't say whether Sandy Hook Elementary, where authorities said all the victims were shot at least twice, would ever reopen. Monday classes were canceled, and the district was making plans to send surviving Sandy Hook students to a former school building in a neighboring town.

With more funerals planned this week, the road ahead for Newtown - which had already started purging itself of Christmas decorations in a joyful season turned mournful - was clouded.

"I feel like we have to get back to normal, but I don't know if there is normal anymore," said Kim Camputo, mother of two children, ages 5 and 10, who attend a different school. "I'll definitely be dropping them off and picking them up myself for a while."

Jim Agostine, superintendent of schools in nearby Monroe, said plans were being made for students from Sandy Hook to attend classes in his town this week.

Newtown police Lt. George Sinko said he "would find it very difficult" for students to return to the same school where they came so close to death. But, he added, "We want to keep these kids together. They need to support each other."

Connecticut Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor said state construction employees are advising on renovating Sandy Hook, which serves grades kindergarten through four.

It wasn't just Newtown that was concerned about the next steps for its schoolchildren. Across the country, vigilance was expected to be high. In an effort to ensure student safety and calm parents' nerves, districts have asked police departments to increase patrols and have sent messages to parents outlining safety plans they assured them are regularly reviewed and rehearsed.

Teachers girded themselves to be strong for their students and for questions and fears they would face in the classroom.

"It's going to be a tough day," said Richard Cantlupe, an American history teacher at Westglades Middle School in Parkland, Florida. "This was like our 9/11 for schoolteachers."

Authorities say the gunman shot his mother, Nancy Lanza, at their home and then took her car and several of her guns to the school, where he broke in and shot his victims to death, then himself. A Connecticut official said the mother was found dead in her pajamas in bed, shot four times in the head with a .22-caliber rifle.

Divorce paperwork released Monday showed that Nancy Lanza had the authority to make all decisions regarding Adam's upbringing. The divorce was finalized in September 2009, when Adam Lanza was 17.

Federal agents have concluded that Lanza visited an area shooting range, but they do not know whether he actually practiced shooting there. Ginger Colbrun, a spokeswoman for the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, would not identify the range or say how recently he was there.

Agents determined Lanza's mother visited shooting ranges several times, but it's not clear whether she took her son or whether he fired a weapon there, Colbrun said.

A law enforcement official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said investigators are reviewing the contents of Lanza's computer, as well as phone and credit card records, in an effort to piece together his activities leading up to the shooting. The official was not authorized to discuss the details of the case.

Lanza took classes at Western Connecticut State University when he was 16, and earned a B average, said Paul Steinmetz, spokesman for the school in Danbury. He said Monday that Lanza took his last class in the summer of 2009.

Investigators have offered no motive, and police have found no letters or diaries that could shed light on it. They believe Lanza attended Sandy Hook many years ago, but they couldn't explain why he went there Friday. Authorities said Lanza had no criminal history, and it was not clear whether he had a job.

Lanza is believed to have used a Bushmaster AR-15 rifle in the school attack, a civilian version of the military's M-16 and a model commonly seen at marksmanship competitions. It's similar to the weapon used in a recent shopping mall shooting in Oregon.

Versions of the AR-15 were outlawed in the United States under the 1994 assault weapons ban. That law expired in 2004, and Congress, in a nod to the political clout of the gun-rights lobby, did not renew it.

In some of the first regulatory proposals to rise out of the Newtown shooting, Democratic lawmakers and independent Sen. Joe Lieberman said Sunday that military-style assault weapons should be banned and that a national commission should be established to examine mass shootings.

"Assault weapons were developed for the U.S. military, not commercial gun manufacturers," said Lieberman, of Connecticut, who is retiring next month. "This is a moment to start a very serious national conversation about violence in our society, particularly about these acts of mass violence."

Gun rights activists remained largely quiet, all but one declining to appear on the Sunday talk shows. In an interview on "Fox News Sunday," Rep. Louie Gohmert, a Texas Republican, defended the sale of assault weapons and said that the principal at Sandy Hook, who authorities say died trying to overtake the shooter, should herself have been armed.

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