Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 20 September 2014

Sandy Hook massacre: Newtown begin to bury its dead

A hearse and family limousines pass a flag at half-mast as the funeral procession for shooting victim Jack Pinto heads through Newtown (AP)
Noah Pozner celebrated his sixth birthday just two weeks ago (AP)
President Barack Obama wipes his eye as he talks about the Connecticut elementary school shooting, Friday, Dec. 14, 2012, in the White House briefing room in Washington. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Noah Pozner and Jack Pinto should have been returning to Sandy Hook Elementary School on Monday.

Instead, a grieving Newtown — still in shock following Friday's massacre — said farewell to the six year-olds at their funerals, the first since Adam Lanza extinguished 26 lives, including 18 of Noah and Jack's classmates, in a hail of gunfire that lasted no longer than 10 minutes.

Mourners at Jack's funeral, held at one in the afternoon, the same time as his classmate's in nearby Fairfield, began arriving at the Honan Funeral Home in Newtown's historic district in the morning.

Flags that usually flutter from poles at either end of the tranquil stretch of Main Street, where Jack's service took place, were at half-mast as those who knew the boy, and many who did not, gathered amid the picture-perfect colonial-era buildings.

Hymns rang out from inside the funeral home where Jack's service was being held.

“The message was ‘you're secure now. The worst is over’,” mourner Gwendolyn Glover said.

Long before the service was due to begin the pavement outside Sabah Qureshi's yolk-coloured house was lined with television cameras trained on the funeral home across the street.

Ms Qureshi has young children of her own. Yesterday, as she stood outside her door looking on at the people coming in and out of the funeral home ahead of the service, a man came up to her to ask where he might find the Newtown cemetery. Why? Because, he said, he'd heard they needed help with digging graves.

“It's terrible,” she said. “I didn't know the gunman or his mother, but I know where they lived, I know the school. I keep thinking about how he would have shot her and then got in her car. And because I know the roads, I know what route he would have taken.”

Another resident, a few houses down from the funeral home, didn't wish to give his name. He simply said: “It's a sad day.”

For many it was also another day when outsiders insisted on intruding as the tragedy continued to draw interest from across the country — and the world.

As Ms Qureshi spoke, a man driving down Main Street lowered his windows and, turning in the direction of the cameras, shouted: “Go home.” Meanwhile, in Fairfield, Connecticut, Governor Dan Malloy was among the mourners arriving for Noah Pozner's funeral service. Noah was the youngest of the Sandy Hook massacre victims, having turned six barely a month ago.

A rabbi presided at Noah's service, and in keeping with Jewish tradition the boy was laid to rest in a simple brown wooden coffin adorned with a Star of David.

Outside the funeral home well-wishers placed two teddy bears, a bouquet of white flowers and a red rose at the base of an old maple tree.

Noah's twin sister Arielle, who was assigned to a different classroom, survived.

Although classes across the district were due to resume today, Sandy Hook Elementary will remain closed.

As some children return to class others will continue to be remembered today with a noon service scheduled for another six-year-old Sandy Hook victim, Jessica Rekos, at the St Rose of Lima Church in Newtown.

Officials are uncertain whether the school itself will ever reopen as nervous students and teachers across the US returned to classrooms under tighter security.

At both funeral homes people wrestled with the same questions as the rest of the US — what steps could and should be taken to prevent anything like the massacre from happening again.

“If people want to go hunting, a single-shot rifle does the job, and that does the job to protect your home, too.

“If you need more than that, I don't know what to say,” Ray DiStephan said outside Noah's funeral.

He added: “I don't want to see my kids go to schools that become maximum-security fortresses.

“That's not the world I want to live in, and that's not the world I want to raise them in.”

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