The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

December 19, 2012

Shattered Newtown tries to make sense of tragedy

(Continued)

NEWTOWN —

In the meantime, mourners overlapped at back-to-back funerals that started Monday and will continue all week.

The first of Wednesday's funerals was for 7-year-old Daniel Barden, a gap-toothed redhead and the youngest of three children whose family called "a constant source of laughter and joy."

"Always smiling, unfailingly polite, incredibly affectionate, fair and so thoughtful toward others," the family said of the boy.

Hundreds of firefighters formed a long blue line outside St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church as bells sounded and bagpipes played. Daniel wanted to join their ranks one day, and many came from New York, where his family has relatives who are firefighters.

Family friend Laura Stamberg of New Paltz, N.Y., whose husband plays in a band with Daniel's father, Mark, said Daniel was a thoughtful boy who held doors for people and would sit with another child if he saw one sitting alone.

She said that on the morning of the shooting, Mark Barden played a game with his son and taught him a Christmas song on the piano.

"They played foosball and then he taught him the song and then he walked him to the bus and that was their last morning together," Stamberg said.

At the same time, in the town of Stratford, family and friends gathered to say goodbye to Victoria Soto, a 27-year-old teacher who was killed while trying to shield her students, some of whom managed to escape.

"She had the perfect job. She loved her job," said Vicky Ruiz, a friend of Soto's since first grade.

Every year, she said, Soto described her students the same way. "They were always good kids. They were always angels," even if, like typical first-graders, they might not always listen, Ruiz said.

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