Shattered Newtown tries to make sense of tragedy

A child peers through firefighters standing Wednesday as the procession heads to the cemetery outside the funeral for school shooting victim Daniel Gerard Barden at St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church in Newtown, Conn., Wednesday.

A child peers through firefighters standing Wednesday as the procession heads to the cemetery outside the funeral for school shooting victim Daniel Gerard Barden at St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church in Newtown, Conn., Wednesday. Photo by The Associated Press.

NEWTOWN, Conn. (AP) — 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.

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.

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

The massacre continued to reverberate around America as citizens and lawmakers debated whether Newtown might be a turning point in the often-polarizing national discussion over gun control.

Lawmakers who have joined the call to consider gun control as part of a comprehensive, anti-violence effort next year included 10-term House Republican Jack Kingston, a Georgia lawmaker elected with strong National Rifle Association backing.

No indication has been made publicly about the motive of the 20-year-old Lanza, who, clad all in black, broke into Sandy Hook Elementary and opened fire on students and staff.

Investigators have found no letters or diaries that could explain the attack.

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