Children return to school in grief-stricken US town
Children in Newtown, Connecticut, began returning to school on Tuesday, four days after a shooting at the school killed 20 pupils and six adults. Funerals were held on Monday for two of the children killed in the massacre.
With security stepped up and families still on edge in Newtown, local schools are opening for the first time since last week’s massacre, bringing a return of familiar routines – at least, for some – to a grief-stricken town as it buries 20 of its children.
Two six-year-old boys were laid to rest Monday in the first of a long procession of funerals. A total of 26 people were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary in one of the worst mass shootings in US history.
While classes resume Tuesday for Newtown schools except those at Sandy Hook, some parents were likely to keep their children at home anyway. Local police and school officials have been discussing how and where to increase security, and state police said they would be on alert for threats and hoaxes.
Suzy DeYoung said her 15-year-old son is going back to the high school.
“I think he wants to go back,” she told AP news agency. “If he told me he wants to stay home, I’d let him stay home. I think going back to a routine is a good idea; at least that’s what I hear from professionals.”
The district has made plans to send surviving Sandy Hook students to Chalk Hill, a former middle school in the neighbouring town of Monroe. The building has been empty since town schools consolidated last year, and tradesmen are donating their services to get the school ready within a matter of days.
“These are innocent children that need to be put on the right path again,” Monroe police Lieutenant Brian McCauley said.
Newtown police Lieutenant George Sinko said whether to send children to school is a personal decision for every parent.
“I can’t imagine what it must be like being a parent with a child that young, putting them on a school bus,” Sinko said.
With Sandy Hook Elementary still designated a crime scene, state police lieutenant Paul Vance said it could be months before police turn the school back over to the district.
‘Outpouring of grief’
On Monday, Newtown held the first two funerals of many the picturesque New England community of 27,000 people will face over the next few days, just as other towns are getting ready for the holidays. At least one funeral is planned for a student – six-year-old Jessica Rekos – as well as several wakes, including one for teacher Victoria Soto, who has been hailed as a hero for sacrificing herself to save several students.
Two funeral homes filled Monday with mourners for Noah Pozner and Jack Pinto, both six years old. “It was amazing to see the amount of people that turned out to pay their respects to these fantastic two boys,” FRANCE 24's Nathan King said reporting from Newtown.
A rabbi presided at Noah’s service, and in keeping with Jewish tradition, the boy was laid to rest in a simple brown wooden casket with a Star of David on it.
“I will miss your perpetual smile, the twinkle in your dark blue eyes, framed by eyelashes that would be the envy of any lady in this room,” Noah’s mother, Veronique Pozner, said at the service, according to remarks the family provided to The Associated Press. Both services were closed to the news media.
“Most of all, I will miss your visions of your future,” she said. “You wanted to be a doctor, a soldier, a taco factory manager. It was your favourite food, and no doubt you wanted to ensure that the world kept producing tacos.”
Noah’s twin, Arielle, who was assigned to a different classroom, survived the killing frenzy.
At Jack Pinto’s Christian service, hymns rang out from inside the funeral home, where the boy lay in an open casket. Jack was among the youngest members of a youth wrestling association in Newtown, and dozens of little boys turned up at the service in gray Newtown Wrestling T-shirts.
Jack was also a fan of New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz and was laid to rest in a Cruz jersey. A neighbour of Pinto told FRANCE 24 that the six-year-old baseball enthusiast was “a joy to watch playing in his driveway; he was just so full of energy”.
King reported "a growing outpouring of grief" in the town, where locals laid gifts outside the school as a memorial. “The whole town wishes that was the end of it," he said. "But there are still 18 children to be buried.”
(FRANCE 24 with wires)