By Allen G. Breed and Helen ONeill Associated Press
NEWTOWN, Conn. — A grief-stricken Newtown on Monday began burying the littlest victims of the school massacre, starting with two 6-year-old boys — one of them a big football fan, the other a mischievous, whip-smart youngster whose twin sister survived the rampage.
Family, friends and townspeople streamed to two funeral homes to say goodbye to Jack Pinto, who loved the New York Giants and idolized their star wide receiver, and Noah Pozner, who liked to figure out how things worked mechanically.
“If Noah had not been taken from us, he would have become a great man. He would been a wonderful husband and a loving father,” his uncle Alexis Haller told mourners, according to remarks he provided to The Associated Press. Both services were closed to the news media.
Noah’s twin, Arielle, who was assigned to a different classroom, survived the killing frenzy by 20-year-old Adam Lanza that left 20 children and six adults dead last week at Sandy Hook Elementary in an attack so horrifying that authorities cannot say whether the school will ever reopen.
As investigators worked to figure out what drove Lanza to lash out with such fury — and why he singled out the school — federal agents said that the young man had fired guns at shooting ranges over the past several years but that there was no evidence he did so recently as practice for the rampage.
At Jack’s Christian service, hymns rang out from inside the funeral home, where the boy lay in an open casket. Jack was one of the youngest members of the Newtown youth wrestling association, and dozens of boys in gray Newtown Wrestling T-shirts were at the funeral, as was his coach.
A mourner, Gwendolyn Glover, said the service carried a message of comfort and protection, particularly for other children.
“The message was: You’re secure now. The worst is over,” she said.
The funeral program bore a quotation from the Book of Revelation: “God shall wipe away all tears. There shall be no more death. Neither sorrow nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain.”
A rabbi presided at Noah’s service, and in keeping with Jewish tradition, the boy was laid to rest in a simple brown wooden casket adorned with a Star of David.
His uncle described him as a smart, funny and mischievous child who loved animals and Mario Brothers video games, and liked to tease his sisters by telling them he worked in a taco factory.
“It is unspeakably tragic that none of us can bring Noah back,” Haller said. “We would go to the ends of the earth to do so, but none of us can. What we can do is carry Noah within us, always. We can remember the joy he brought to us. We can hold his memory close to our hearts. We can treasure him forever.”
At both funeral homes, people wrestled with the same questions as the rest of the country — what steps could and should be taken to prevent something 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.”
With more funerals planned this week, the road ahead for Newtown, which had already started taking down Christmas decorations in a joyful season turned mournful, 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, 5 and 10, who attend a different school. “I’ll definitely be dropping them off and picking them up myself for a while.”
Lanza shot his mother, Nancy Lanza, at their home, then took her car and some of her guns to the school, where he broke in and opened fire on two classrooms with a high-powered rifle. He committed suicide as police closed in. He was wearing all black, with an olive-drab utility vest with lots of pockets.
A Connecticut official said Lanza’s mother — a gun enthusiast who practiced at shooting ranges — was found dead in her pajamas in bed, shot four times in the head with a .22-caliber rifle.
Debora Seifert, a spokeswoman for the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, said both Lanza and his mother fired at shooting ranges, and also visited ranges together. “We do not have any indication at this time that the shooter engaged in shooting activities in the past six months,” Seifert told the AP.
Police have found no letters or diaries that could shed light on why Lanza went on his rampage. Investigators are looking at his computer and his phone and credit card records for clues.
With Sandy Hook Elementary still designated a crime scene, state police Lt. Paul Vance said that it could be months before police turn the school back over to the district. The people of Newtown were not ready to address its future.
“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.”
Classes were canceled Monday, and Newtown’s other schools were to reopen Tuesday. The district made plans to send surviving Sandy Hook students to a former middle school in the neighboring town of Monroe.
Sandy Hook desks are being taken to the Chalk Hill school in Monroe, empty since town schools consolidated last year, and tradesmen are donating their services to get the school ready within a matter of days.
“These are innocent children that need to be put on the right path again,” Monroe police Lt. Brian McCauley said.
Across the country Monday morning, vigilance was high. To keep students safe and calm parents’ nerves, school systems asked police departments to increase patrols and sent messages to parents outlining their standing safety plans. Teachers girded themselves to be strong for their students and ready for their questions and fears.
“It’s going to be a tough day,” said Richard Cantlupe, an American history teacher at Westglades Middle School in Parkland, Fla. “This was like our 9/11 for schoolteachers.”
Communities were on edge. In nearby Ridgefield, Conn., schools were locked down after a suspicious person was seen near a train station.
On Sunday, President Barack Obama pledged to seek change in memory of the 26 people slain Friday by a gunman packing a high-powered rifle. The president slowly recited the first names of the children.
“What choice do we have?” he said. “Are we really prepared to say that we’re powerless in the face of such carnage, that the politics are too hard?”