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.
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.
Still, he noted: There’s going to be no joy in school. It really doesn’t feel like Christmas anymore.
Tensions in the shattered community ran high as the grief of parents and townspeople collided with the crush of media reporting on the shootings and the funerals.
Police walked children to parents waiting in cars to protect them from the cameras. Many parents yelled at reporters to leave their children and the town alone.
At Newtown High School, students in sweat shirts and jackets, many wearing headphones, had mixed reactions. Some waved at or snapped photos of the assembled media horde, while others appeared visibly shaken.
Students said they didn’t get much work done Tuesday and spent much of the day talking about the terrible events of Friday morning, when 20-year-old 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, sophomore Tate Schwab said. It really hasn’t sunk in yet. It feels to me like it hasn’t happened.
As for concerns about safety, some students were defiant.
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.
Is there ever a right day? I mean, you just do it, you know, just get them back to school, Peter Muckell said as he took 8-year-old daughter Shannon, a third-grader, to Hawley Elementary.
At one Newtown school, students found some comfort from Ronan, an Australian shepherd therapy dog from Good Dog Foundation in New York.