Much Of Newtown Heads Back To School After Shootings

Most children returned to school in Newtown, Conn., on Monday as some families buried victims of the last week's shootings.

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At the Catholic Church in Newtown, Connecticut, today, there were two more funerals. First, for 6-year-old James Mattioli, followed by a service for 6-year-old Jessica Rekos. They're among the 20 children killed in Friday's shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Also today, classes resumed at all Newtown schools except for Sandy Hook.

We're going to hear now about the day's events there. And we'll talk with a U.S. senator who is rethinking his staunch support of gun rights. First, NPR's Don Gonyea in Newtown.

DON GONYEA, BYLINE: There was school again today in Newtown. But this morning, things were something other than routine. Bus driver Melissa Danka says one mom climbed on board to give her a hug before she drove off. As for her passengers, middle-school students usually make for a pretty noisy bunch, not today.

MELISSA DANKA: There was barely any talking. It was very quiet. Some kids were - you could see that they were just, you know, teary eyed. And you could see that they were just very emotional.

GONYEA: On her second run of the day, Danka says things were somewhat more normal.

DANKA: They seemed to be OK. You know, they were very talkative. They were excited when we were passing the news cameras.

GONYEA: TV cameras were everywhere though police officers kept the media across the street and off the school grounds. Peter Muckell has two daughters, one 13, the other 8. He'd just dropped the younger girl off at Newtown's Hawley Elementary.

PETER MUCKELL: It's just deep, deep, deep sadness. You know, it's just deep sadness. It's just like - just right down into the middle of all of us. And we've been all, you know, we've been robbed. You know what I mean?

GONYEA: But Muckell says the school district made the right decision to reopen today.

MUCKELL: I - like I said, what else are you going to do? I mean, you can't just - you can't stay at home. I mean, you know, we stayed home for, like, three days and just didn't feel like going out. I was happy, actually, just to get out, get back into, you know, into the world, you know?

GONYEA: The one school that has not reopened is Sandy Hook Elementary. It remains a crime scene. It's unclear if the building will ever be used again. Eventually, its students will go to a currently unused school building in the nearby town of Monroe. Bus driver Melissa Danka's daughter is in kindergarten at Sandy Hook.

DANKA: You know, she's admitted she was scared, scared to go back to school. You know, she's talked a little bit more what she saw and heard. She heard, you know, five gunshots, you know, and then the teacher had them all lay on the ground in the corner and, you know, like not make a sound. For me, I'm still in shock that my daughter even went through that.

GONYEA: And she says her daughter is scared that, quote, "the bad man will come back to life." Take the exit off the freeway into Sandy Hook and you're on Churchill Road. Before you get to the village, you'll pass several memorials. Drivers slow down as they pass one, featuring 27 wooden cutouts shaped like angels and painted white with yellow wings. Krista Consalvo and her boyfriend, Wes Friedman, parked there and walked up to say a prayer. It was a way to pay their respects since they wouldn't be able to attend any of the funerals for victims this week.

KRISTA CONSALVO: Those angels, I just - it's really hard to see that because it shouldn't have happened.

GONYEA: Moments earlier, down in the village, the couple watched as a funeral procession drove past.

CONSALVO: It's going to get worse before it gets better. And just even seeing the hearse that just passed us, it's - it's just heartbreaking.

GONYEA: Friedman says it will get better, but he says, it will take many months if not years. Don Gonyea, NPR News, Newtown.

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