Funerals begin for US school massacre victims

Posted at 12/18/12 1:18 AM

NEWTOWN, USA - Mourners in Newtown, Connecticut, headed for the first 2 of 20 funerals of schoolchildren massacred in their classroom as the rest of the nation anxiously sent children back to school on Monday with tightened security.

Within hours of the school day starting, lockdowns were declared in nearby Connecticut and New York towns. In New Jersey, one high school's morning announcements included an added warning not to let strangers into the building.

Newtown's schools remained closed on Monday, the first academic day since the 20-year-old gunman claimed 28 lives, including his mother's and his own.

Tiny caskets marked the first wave of funerals for the 20 children and six adults killed in the shooting rampage at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Friday. Noah Pozner and Jack Pinto, both 6 years old, will be laid to rest on Monday afternoon.

Their funerals come a day after President Barack Obama visited Newtown to comfort the families. 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 brother, Carlos Soto, told CBS "This Morning."

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.

Noah was the youngest victim of rampage and his twin sister, Arielle, escaped unhurt. The family's rabbi has said he encouraged Noah's mother to focus on her other four children amid the grief.

Jack was a wrestler who loved sports. The New York Giants receiver Victor Cruz played Sunday's football game with the boy's name written all over his cleats and gloves.

At Sunday night's memorial, Obama offered words of hope and promises of action to stop future tragedies.

"We bear responsibility for every child ... This is our first task, caring for our children. It's our first job. If we don't get that right, we don't get anything right," he said.

The president kept his emotions in tighter check than he did on Friday, when he cried openly while addressing the shooting. But tears ran freely among mourners in the packed high school auditorium, who wailed when he read the names of the adults and children killed.

Schools remained closed in Newtown as faculty members met to decide when they would open again. To keep children occupied on a drizzling Monday, youth sports groups set up an indoor field day with athletics, board games and arts and crafts. By early morning, more than 100 children joined in the activities.

The community will have to make a decision about what to do with the bullet-ridden Sandy Hook Elementary School, whose students will for now attend classes in an empty school in a neighboring town.

"I think we have to go back into that building at some point. That's how you heal. It doesn't have to be immediately but I sure wouldn't want to give up on it," said local resident Tim Northrop.

A more detailed picture of Adam Lanza's stunning attack emerged on Sunday.

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.

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 pro-gun lawmaker called on Congress and the gun industry to come together on a "sensible, reasonable approach" to curbing high-powered, assault weapons like those used in Newtown.

"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."