Children's Shooting Deaths Leave Small Town Numb

Newtown, Conn., is still reeling from the shock of last week's shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Sadness is everywhere as the first of many funerals were held Monday. The police investigation continues but most of the big questions about the attack remain unanswered at this time.

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There are still many questions remaining in Newtown, Connecticut, the scene of Friday's deadly shooting rampage at an elementary school. Police are looking for clues that could reveal a motive in the assault, but it's clear the painstaking investigation is only in its very early stages. Some things might never be known. In the meantime, the horror of last week gives way to a sad and solemn duty that began yesterday: the first of what will be many funerals for 20 young children and for teachers, the principle and staff who died at the school.

NPR's Don Gonyea has this report from Newtown.

DON GONYEA, BYLINE: A long procession of cars rolled slowly from the driveway of the funeral home onto Main Street. Mourners, many of them parents, holding the hands of young children, walked down the sidewalk. They had come to say goodbye to six-year-old Jack Pinto, a first grader whose playful image and cheek painted with the New York Giants logo could be seen on the front page of the Hartford Courant newspaper yesterday. Close-up color portraits and smiling snapshots of all 27 victims of the shooting formed a grid on the page, from top to bottom.

After three days, local residents were still numb. Fifty-six-year-old Cindy McIntyre has lived here for 20 years.

CINDY MCINTYRE: We're all deeply, deeply upset. Every time I find someone else from Newtown, I talk to someone else about Newtown, we start to cry. We hug each other a lot. And if you see people hugging, it's not a quick hug like New Englanders are known to do. It's a hug that you hold on to for a long, long time.

GONYEA: Again yesterday, State Police Lieutenant Paul Vance held media briefings at a local park, as he has since the shootings on Friday. He did confirm that two school employees were wounded in the shooting and survived. Earlier briefings had mentioned just one survivor. Each was hit, quote, "in the lower extremities." Neither has been identified. Each is an important witness, having seen the assailant, 20-year-old Adam Lanza.

But mostly from Lieutenant Vance, it was no comment yesterday, on questions ranging from evidence seized from Lanza's home, to the legality of the rifle. He promised answers, eventually.

(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)

LT. PAUL VANCE: We're going to provide them any information and all information. We'll paint a crystal-clear picture as much as we possible can, but it is a slow process. It's not something that's just is done in 60 minutes, as you see on TV.

GONYEA: Contrast Vance's matter-of-fact presentation to the emotion at another news conference yesterday, one by Connecticut Governor Dan Malloy. At the State Capitol in Hartford, the governor repeated his longstanding position backing a reinstatement of the federal ban on assault weapons, which expired in 2004. But the most powerful moment came when he was asked about his decision last Friday to tell parents awaiting news about their children that all hope was gone.

(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)

GOVERNOR DAN MALLOY: It was evident to me that there was a reluctance to tell parents and loved ones that the person that they were waiting for was not going to return. And that had gone on for a period of time, well after there was any expectancy that families would be reunited.

GONYEA: Governor Malloy wiped away tears yesterday, recalling the moment. He said it wasn't right to make families wait for a traditional means of identifying victims.

(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)

MALLOY: I made the decision that to have that to go on any longer was wrong.

GONYEA: Governor Malloy spoke just hours after having attended a funeral for six-year-old Noah Pozner. Such raw emotion seemed perfectly suited for the day and the week ahead for this community.

Don Gonyea, NPR News, Newtown.

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