Newtown plans burials as school's future debated
Gary Seri, general manager at the Stone River Grille, prepares to hang a message written on a table cloth in honor of the teachers who died along with students a day earlier when a gunman open fire at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Saturday, Dec. 15, 2012, in the Sandy Hook village of Newtown, Conn. Seri said the teachers were scheduled to have their holiday party at his restaurant. The massacre of 26 children and adults at Sandy Hook Elementary school elicited horror and soul-searching around the world even as it raised more basic questions about why the gunman, 20-year-old Adam Lanza, would have been driven to such a crime and how he chose his victims. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez / December 17, 2012)
The people of Newtown weren't yet ready to address the question just three days after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, and a day after President Barack Obama pledged to seek change in memory of the children and six adults ruthlessly slain by a gunman packing a high-powered rifle.
"We're just now getting ready to talk to our son about who was killed," said Robert Licata, the father of a student who escaped harm during the shooting. "He's not even there yet."
Newtown officials couldn't say whether Sandy Hook Elementary, where authorities said all the victims were shot at least twice, would ever reopen. State police Lt. Paul Vance said Monday at a news conference that it could be months before police turn the school back over to the district.
Monday classes were canceled and Newtown's other schools were to reopen Tuesday. The district was making plans to send surviving Sandy Hook students to a former school building in a neighboring town, but they didn't say when that would happen.
The gunman, 20-year-old Adam Lanza, was carrying an arsenal of hundreds of rounds of especially deadly ammunition, authorities said Sunday ‚Äî 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 on ABC's "This Week."
At the interfaith service in Newtown on Sunday evening, 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?" 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. Police and firefighters got hugs and standing ovations when they entered for the public vigil, as did 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 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 20 children.
"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."
The first funerals were planned Monday for Jack Pinto, a 6-year-old New York Giants fan who might be buried in wide receiver Victor Cruz's jersey, and Noah Pozner, a boy of the same age who liked to figure out how things worked mechanically.
"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."
With more funerals planned this week, the road ahead for Newtown ‚Äî which had already started purging itself of Christmas decorations in a joyful season turned mournful ‚Äî 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."