The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

December 19, 2012

Shattered Newtown tries to make sense of tragedy

NEWTOWN — For a third straight day Wednesday, funeral processions rolled through a grieving Connecticut town trying to make sense of the massacre of 20 first-graders and six adults in an elementary school less than two weeks before Christmas.

A 7-year-old boy who had dreamed of being a firefighter and a heroic first-grade teacher who died while trying to shield students from the carnage were among the victims laid to rest in what has become an unrelenting cycle of sorrow and loss.

"The first few days, all you heard was helicopters. Now at my office all I hear is the rumble of motorcycle escorts and funeral processions going back and forth throughout the day," said Dr. Joseph Young, an optometrist who said he had already been to one funeral and would be going to several more.

Students in Newtown returned to school Tuesday, except those from Sandy Hook Elementary, where a gunman armed with a military-style assault rifle slaughtered the children and six teachers and administrators last Friday. He also killed his mother at her home.

Students at Sandy Hook, which serves kindergarten through fourth grade, will resume classes in a formerly shuttered school in a neighboring community in January.

President Barack Obama pressed Congress on Wednesday to reinstate an assault weapons ban that expired in 2004, and called for stricter background checks for people who seek to purchase weapons as well as a limit on high-capacity ammunition clips.

"This time, the words need to lead to action," said Obama, who set a January deadline for the recommendations.

In Newtown, Education Secretary Arne Duncan held a closed meeting with Sandy Hook Elementary staff, and also planned to attend the wake of slain principal Dawn Hochsprung.

In what has become a dark rite of passage in America, survivors of Minnesota's 2005 school shooting on the Red Lake Indian Reservation that killed 10, including the gunman, traveled to Connecticut to offer comfort to the community. They said they sought to repay the support they received nearly eight years ago from survivors of the Columbine High School killings in Colorado.

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