NEWTOWN, Conn. — 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 boy who had dreamed of being a firefighter and a 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,’’ said Dr. Joseph Young, an optometrist who said he had already been to one funeral and would be going to several more. “Now at my office all I hear is the rumble of motorcycle escorts and funeral processions going back and forth throughout the day.’’
Students in Newtown returned to school Tuesday, except those from Sandy Hook Elementary. Students at Sandy Hook, which serves kindergarten through fourth grade, will resume classes in a vacant school in a neighboring community in January.
In Newtown, US Education Secretary Arne Duncan held a closed meeting with Sandy Hook Elementary staff, and also planned to attend the wake of principal Dawn Hochsprung, 47.
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 from survivors of the Columbine High School killings.
In the meantime, mourners overlapped at back-to-back funerals that started Monday and will continue all week.
The first of Wednesday’s funerals was for 7-year-old Daniel Barden, a gap-toothed redhead and the youngest of three children whose family called him ‘‘a constant source of laughter and joy.’’
‘‘Always smiling, unfailingly polite, incredibly affectionate, fair, and so thoughtful toward others,’’ the family said of the boy.
Hundreds of firefighters formed a long blue line outside St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church as bells sounded and bagpipes played. Daniel wanted to join their ranks one day, and many came from New York, where his family has relatives who are firefighters.
Family friend Laura Stamberg of New Paltz, N.Y., whose husband plays in a band with Daniel’s father, Mark, said Daniel was a thoughtful boy who held doors for people and would sit with another child if he saw one sitting alone.
She said that on the morning of the shooting, Mark Barden played a game with his son and taught him a Christmas song on the piano.
At the same time, in Stratford, family and friends gathered to say goodbye to Victoria Soto, a 27-year-old teacher who was killed while trying to shield her students.
Students Charlotte Bacon and Caroline Previdi were laid to rest later Wednesday, and a wake was held for Hochsprung, the school’s principal. She and school psychologist Mary Sherlach rushed toward the gunman in an attempt to stop him and paid with their lives.
Newtown officials said Wednesday that when the children who survived the massacre return to school in a different building, they will find familiar surroundings. More than 500 people are involved in the replication effort, using photos of the current school.
The new Sandy Hook Elementary School will be located in a vacant middle school in Monroe. It is expected to open in January, and students will remain there at least through the academic year with Donna Page, a retired Sandy Hook principal, leading the school.
Children will have their same chairs and desks, when possible. Their classroom walls will be painted the same colors and be hung with the same pictures. Other details, such as the location of bookshelves, will be replicated as much as possible.
As the effects of the attack continued to reverberate across the nation Wednesday, a group that advocates pro-gun legislation said guns should be allowed in Arizona public schools to provide protection.
‘‘It’s long past time to, at the very least, allow our school faculty and staff the option to be trained and armed,’’ the Arizona Citizens Defense League said in a statement. ‘‘Only then will they be capable of dealing with a situation like this.’’
Amid public debate over what to do in response to the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary, the league is ‘‘now looking at things that can be done to heighten security in schools,’’ spokesman Charles Heller said. ‘‘We hadn’t been before.’’
Arizona law now generally bans taking guns on school grounds.
The statement by the league decried the violence in Connecticut.