Schools reopen in Newtown, except Sandy Hook

Security is high; services are held for two children

Krista Rekos, the mother of Jessica Rekos, was hugged after the child’s funeral at St. Rose of Lima Church in Newtown, Conn.
Krista Rekos, the mother of Jessica Rekos, was hugged after the child’s funeral at St. Rose of Lima Church in Newtown, Conn.

NEWTOWN, Conn. — Newtown returned its students to their classrooms Tuesday for the first time since last week’s massacre and faced the agonizing task of laying others to rest, as this grieving town wrestled with the same issues gripping the country: violence, gun control, and finding a way forward.

Funerals were held for two more of the tiny fallen, a 6-year-old boy and a 6-year-old girl. A total of 26 people were gunned down at Sandy Hook Elementary School in one of the worst mass shootings in US history. The gunman also killed his mother in her home, before committing suicide.

The resumption of classes at all Newtown’s schools except Sandy Hook brought a return of familiar routines, something students seemed to welcome as they arrived aboard buses festooned with large green-and-white ribbons — the colors of the stricken elementary school.


‘‘We’re going to be able to comfort each other and try and help each other get through this, because that’s the only way we’re going to do it,’’ said 17-year-old P.J. Hickey, a senior at Newtown High School. ‘‘Nobody can do this alone.’’

Famiy photo via AP
Jessica Rekos, 6
Get Ground Game in your inbox:
Daily updates and analysis on national politics from James Pindell.
Thank you for signing up! Sign up for more newsletters here

Still, he noted: ‘‘There’s going to be no joy in school. It really doesn’t feel like Christmas anymore.’’

James Mattioli, 6

At St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church, back-to-back funerals were held for first-graders James Mattioli and Jessica Rekos, the third and fourth so far and the first of eight to be held in the coming days at the church. Memorial services and wakes were also held for some of the adult victims.

Across the country, the outlines of a national debate on gun control continued to take shape.

A former cochairman of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus, Representative Mike Thompson, Democrat of California, and 10-term House Republican Jack Kingston — a Georgia lawmaker elected with strong National Rifle Association backing — were the latest to join the call to consider gun control as part of a comprehensive effort next year.


‘‘Put guns on the table, also put video games on the table, put mental health on the table,’’ Kingston said. But he added that nothing should be done immediately.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said President Obama was ‘‘actively supportive’’ of a plan by Senator Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California, to introduce legislation to reinstate an assault weapons ban.

Meanwhile, the NRA, silent since the shootings, said in a statement that it was ‘‘prepared to offer meaningful contributions to help make sure this never happens again.’’ It gave no indication what that might entail.

Newtown school officials and police stepped up security at the town schools Tuesday and were watchful for any threats or hoaxes, but no trouble was reported.

In Utah, a sixth-grader caught with a gun at school told administrators he brought the weapon to defend himself in case of an attack similar to the shooting in Connecticut, school officials said Tuesday.


Teachers and administrators at West Kearns Elementary School confronted the boy in class Monday after students reported the weapon, said Granite School District spokesman Ben Horsley.

The boy had an unloaded gun and ammunition in his backpack, Horsley said.

The boy waved the gun at others during a morning recess, school officials said. Authorities have not released the child’s name. The .22-caliber handgun had been left at the boy’s home by a relative, Horsley said.

As mourners gathered Tuesday at the St. Rose of Lima Church, a motorcade led by police motorcycles arrived for the funeral of little James Mattioli, who especially loved recess and math and who was described by his family as a ‘‘numbers guy’’ who couldn’t wait until he was old enough to order a foot-long Subway sandwich.

Inside the church, James’s mother stood and remembered her son.

‘‘It was very somber, it was very sad, it was very moving,’’ said Clare Savarese, who taught the boy in preschool and recalled him as ‘‘a lovely little boy, a sweet little angel.’’

The service had not yet concluded when mourners began arriving for the funeral of Jessica Rekos, who loved horses and was counting the years until she turned 10, when her family had promised her a horse of her own. For Christmas, she had asked Santa for new cowgirl boots and hat.

‘‘We are devastated, and our hearts are with the other families who are grieving as we are,’’ her parents, Rich and Krista Rekos, said in a statement.

At a wake for 27-year-old first-grade teacher Victoria Soto, hundreds of mourners, many wearing green-and-white ribbons, stood in a line that wrapped around a funeral home in Stratford, Conn.

At Newtown High School, students had mixed reactions.

Students said they did not get much work done Tuesday and spent much of the day talking about the terrible events of last Friday, when 20-year-old gunman Adam Lanza, clad all in black, broke into Sandy Hook Elementary and opened fire on students and staff.

‘‘It’s definitely better than just sitting at home watching the news,’’ said sophomore Tate Schwab. ‘‘It really hasn’t sunk in yet.”

‘‘This is where I feel the most at home,’’ Hickey said. ‘‘I feel safer here than anywhere else in the world.’’

Still, some parents were apprehensive. Priscilla and Randy Bock, arriving with their 15-year-old special needs son, James, expressed misgivings. ‘‘I was not sure we wanted him going,’’ Priscilla Bock said. ‘‘I’m a mom. I’m anxious.’’