The Free Press, Mankato, MN

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December 18, 2012

Classes resume in Newtown, minus Sandy Hook

— With security stepped up and families still on edge in Newtown, students began returning to school Tuesday 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.

One 6-year-old boy's funeral was under way Tuesday morning, and two other 6-year-old boys were laid to rest Monday in the first of a long, almost unbearable procession of funerals. A total of 26 people were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary in one of the worst mass shootings in U.S history.

Classes resume Tuesday for Newtown schools except those at Sandy Hook. At Newtown High School, students in sweatshirts and jackets, many wearing headphones, betrayed mixed emotions. Some waved at or snapped photos of the assembled media horde, and others appeared visibly shaken, one with his hand to his brow.

"There's going to be no joy in school," said 17-year-old senior P.J. Hickey. "It really doesn't feel like Christmas anymore."

At St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church in Newtown, a hearse arrived Tuesday morning carrying the casket of first-grader James Mattioli for the first of eight funerals of victims to be held in the coming days at the church. Mourners gathered outside, and the family followed the casket in.

At the high school, students didn't expect to get much work done Tuesday but rather anticipated most of the day would be spent talking about the shooting.

"We're going to be able to comfort each other and try and help each other get through this because that's the only way we're going to do it. Nobody can do this alone," Hickey said.

Sophomore Tate Schwab echoed that.

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