Reactions continue as first shooting victims are buried

Tuesday December 18, 2012

NEWTOWN, Conn. -- Sandy Hook students are getting ready for their first day back to school on Wednesday, more funerals are being planned, and there will be yet another day of reckoning in this idyllic New England town where 20 first-graders and six women who tried to protect them no longer live.

"You see the little coffins and your heart has to ache," said Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy, who went to the funeral of 6-year-old Noah Pozner in a black suit and black tie.

A few official updates from police trickled out -- there were two people who were presumed shot by 20-year-old Adam Lanza at Sandy Hook Elementary and survived, not the one woman police had indicated earlier. Newtown school officials said Sandy Hook students would return to school on Wednesday in a borrowed space in next-door Monroe, and the governor of Connecticut signed a piece of paper to bypass the laws needed to make it happen.

Outside of Newtown, students returned to school behind locked doors and sometimes among extra police posted outside. Fears of a sound similar to gunshots at an East Haven, Conn., school turned out to be fireworks. At another school in Ridgefield, Conn., someone said they spotted a suspicious man walking around with a rifle. Across the country in California, someone called a middle school and said, "You're next." Threats against schools proliferated across the country, and at least two students were arrested.

In the midst, a debate about the nation's gun laws, and its treatment of the mentally ill, were simmering on cable news channels and social media networks, egged on by promises to reinstate an assault weapons ban, and by President Obama's speech in a high school auditorium. There, he said flatly that Newtown's teachers did what they could to protect their students, but the nation is failing to protect its children.

"We can't tolerate this anymore. These tragedies must end. And to end them, we must change," he said.

After the shooting, the National Rifle Association -- often a flashpoint for the nation's gun rights controversies -- took down its Facebook page, which had recently lauded reaching 1.7 million "likes." It has made no comment since the massacre. Anti-gun rights advocates, however, have. Politician after politician has taken to a podium or a Sunday morning news show to say that the massacre of 20 6- and 7-year-olds in a matter of minutes was the proverbial last straw.

On Monday, New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg returned to the podium with victims of gun violence standing behind him. Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, the leader of a state that suffered its own devastating shooting at a movie theater only months ago, promised to introduce a plan on Tuesday to revamp the state's mental health care. Amid the chatter, business at gun shops in Connecticut and elsewhere appeared to be skyrocketing.

"The laws we have now are fine," said The Hunter's Shop owner Thomas Imperati in Branford, Conn.

Police steadfastly refused to describe many details about how Lanza allegedly carried out the shooting. He had several guns, used many bullets, and left hundreds unused. Some wrenching details were described by unnamed law enforcement officers to the Hartford Courant: He passed up one classroom for unknown reasons, but slaughtered wholesale the children and teachers in the next room. The Associated Press reported on Monday that six students in a second classroom were found in a neighbor's driveway after they apparently ran away during the shooting. Seven others were somehow able to hide in a closet, and were found by police unharmed. Outside the closet, their teacher and six classmates were killed by multiple bullets from an assault rifle.

Also dead were the presumed shooter Adam Lanza, and his mother, Nancy Lanza, who was the first to be killed in Newtown on Friday morning. She was shot in the face four times while she slept. Adam Lanza shot himself in the head as police stormed the school.

They did not think either Lanza had any recent connection to the school, though Gov. Malloy said he was led to believe Lanza had once attended Sandy Hook. Law enforcement sources, friends of Nancy Lanza, and former classmates all said Lanza was mentally disturbed in some way, and was possibly on the autism spectrum.

His father Peter Lanza, who was divorced from Nancy Lanza in 2009 and lives in nearby Stamford, issued a statement of sorrow of Saturday: "We, too, are asking why." His older brother, Ryan, 24, was taken away from his New Jersey home in handcuffs on Friday, but was merely questioned.

Nancy and Peter Lanza's divorce papers reveal only the outlines of their life together: They were well-off -- Peter paid Nancy more than a quarter of a million dollars a year in alimony. They shared custody of their then-teenage son Adam, but he lived primarily in Newtown with his mother. Conversations with friends revealed a bit more: Peter and Nancy lived apart for 17 years before they divorced. Peter, who lives now in nearby Stamford, never lived in the Newtown house Nancy died in.

Gov. Malloy, who was the man who told a group of 20 parents on Friday morning that they would never see their kids again, promised to attend every funeral possible. Other officials, the governor explained in tears on Monday, did not want to tell the last parents waiting at a firehouse near the school that their children were dead because of "traditional investigative policies."

"I made the decision that to have that go on any longer was wrong, and I did it."

Among them, presumably, the parents of 6-year-old Jack Pinto, who was mourned at exactly the same time as Noah Pozner Monday afternoon. Pinto's wrestling teammates chatted about video game strategy, and wondered what their friend might look like during the ceremony.

"He's going to look like he's sleeping," said one boy.

With reporting by Susan Misur, Luther Turmelle, Mary Albl, Nikki Treleaven, Meg Learson Grosso, Frank Otto, Ebony Walmsley, Michelle Tuccitto Sullo, Chris Hopkins, Adrienne LaFrance, Phyllis Swebilius, Adam Poulisse, and Jen Swift.


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