Twenty-eight people died in the deadly Newtown, Conn. rampage Friday, including 20 children ages 7 and younger, six adults at the school, shooter Adam Lanza and his mother.
“It’s a tragedy that’s affected us all,” said Marvin Richards, co-owner of Miller & Richards Funeral Home in Rome. “We wanted to do anything we can to assist.”
Richards said the family-owned Honan Funeral Home — the only one in the small town of Newtown — is getting physical help from independent funeral directors in the state. It’s the families of the victims who are unprepared for the funerals.
“We asked them what they needed and they simply said funds for the families, so we’re going to be a drop-off point for checks,” Richards said. “We’re also going to have a register book available. People can come by and sign it, and we’ll send it up to the school with respect from our community.”
Miller & Richards have locations at 1148 N. Broad St. and 2542 Shorter Ave. Checks should be made payable to the Newtown Rotary Sandy Hook School Fund.
Town struggling with grief
With so much grieving left to do, many of Newtown’s 27,000 people wondered whether life could ever return to normal.
School officials couldn’t say Sunday if Sandy Hook Elementary would ever reopen. Jim Agostine, superintendent of schools in nearby Monroe, said plans were being made for the students to attend classes in his town this week.
Newtown police Lt. George Sinko said he “would find it very difficult” for students to return to the school. But, he added: “We want to keep these kids together. They need to support each other.”
An overflow crowd of more than 800 people packed the 9 a.m. Mass at St. Rose of Lima Roman Catholic Church, where eight children will be buried this week. Lanza and his mother also attended the church. Spokesman Brian Wallace said the diocese has yet to be asked to provide funerals for either.
The noon Mass was interrupted and the church evacuated after someone phoned in a threat. Police said nothing dangerous was found.
President Barack Obama met privately Sunday afternoon at Newtown High School, about a mile and a half from Sandy Hook Elementary, with families of the victims and with emergency personnel who responded to the shootings.
In the evening, he spoke at an interfaith vigil. As the auditorium began to fill, people wore looks of disbelief. Many parents came with their children, some of the boys and girls holding teddy bears and other stuffed toys.
“We’re halfway between grief and hope,” said Curt Brantl, whose fourth-grade daughter was in the library of the elementary school when the shootings occurred. She was not harmed.
As Obama addressed the residents of Newtown, he spoke words that echoed in the hearts of their countrymen.
“I come to offer the love and prayers of the nation,” he said. “I can only hope it helps for you to know you are not alone in your grief…That all across this land we have wept with you.”
More details emerging
Investigators have said they believe Lanza attended Sandy Hook Elementary many years ago, but they couldn’t explain why he went there Friday. Authorities said he had no criminal history.
Gov. Dannel Malloy said Lanza decided to kill himself when he heard police closing in about 10 minutes into the attack.
“We surmise that it was during the second classroom episode that he heard responders coming and apparently at that decided to take his own life,” Malloy said on ABC’s “This Week.”
Lanza shot himself in the head just as he heard police drawing near to the classroom where he was slaughtering helpless children. Authorities said they found multiple 30-round magazines and hundreds of unused bullets at the school, which enrolled about 670 students.
“There was a lot of ammo, a lot of clips,” said state police Lt. Paul Vance. “Certainly a lot of lives were potentially saved.”
The chief medical examiner said the ammunition was the type designed to break up inside a victim’s body and inflict the maximum amount of damage, tearing apart bone and tissue.
Also Sunday, a Connecticut official said the gunman’s mother was found dead in her pajamas in bed, shot four times in the head with a .22-caliber rifle.
The killer then went to the school with guns he took from his mother, got inside by breaking a window and began blasting his way through the building.
Gun control debate heats up
Several Democratic lawmakers, during appearances on the Sunday talk shows, said the gruesome killings at the school were the final straw in a debate on gun laws that has fallen to the wayside in recent years.
“This conversation has been dominated in Washington by — you know and I know — gun lobbies that have an agenda,” said Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, the second-ranking Democrat in the Senate. “We need people, just ordinary Americans, to come together, and speak out, and to sit down and calmly reflect on how far we go.”
Sen. Joe Lieberman, a Connecticut independent who is retiring, suggested a national commission on mass violence that would examine gun laws and what critics see as loopholes, as well as the mental health system and violence in movies and video games.
Durbin said he supports the idea, and would add school safety to the list of topics to examine.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said she would push legislation next year to ban future sales of military-assault weapons like those used in the elementary school shooting. The bill will ban big clips, drums and strips of more than 10 bullets.
The proposals were among the first to come from Congress in the wake of Friday’s shooting. Gun rights activists remained largely quiet on the issue, all but one declining to appear on the talk shows.
Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, defended the sale of assault weapons and said the principal at Sandy Hook Elementary School, who authorities say died trying to overtake the shooter, should have been armed.
Staff writer Diane Wagner contributed to this report.