The US town shattered by last week’s school shooting prepared yesterday for the first two funerals of the young victims, while officials were not sure whether the school itself would ever reopen.
At a Sunday night vigil, US President Barack Obama said he will use “whatever power” he has to prevent similar massacres.
“What choice do we have?” he said. “Are we really prepared to say that we’re powerless in the face of such carnage, that the politics are too hard? Are we prepared to say that such violence visited on our children year after year after year is somehow the price of our freedom?”
Investigators have offered no motive for the shooting, and the Connecticut community continued to struggle to comprehend what drove Adam Lanza to kill his mother at home in bed on Friday morning and then unleash gunfire on six- and seven-year-old children.
All the victims at the school apparently were shot more than once, and some of them were shot at close range, chief medical examiner H. Wayne Carver has said. He said the ammunition was the type designed to break up inside a victim’s body and inflict the maximum amount of damage.
Police say Lanza was carrying an arsenal of ammunition big enough to kill just about every student in the school if given enough time. He shot himself in the head just as he heard police drawing near, authorities said.
Newtown officials could not say whether Sandy Hook Elementary would ever reopen. Yesterday’s classes were canceled, and the district was making plans to send surviving Sandy Hook students to a former school building in a neighboring town.
“We’re just now getting ready to talk to our son about who was killed,” said Robert Licata, the father of a student who escaped harm during the shooting. “He’s not even there yet.”
Obama told Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy that Friday was the most difficult day of his presidency.
The shootings have restarted a debate in Washington about what politicians can to do help — gun control or otherwise. Obama has called for “meaningful action” to prevent killings.
However, the president’s message at Sunday night’s vigil was also one of grief and healing.
Obama read the names of the adults who died, to some gasps and cries in the audience. He finished his speech by reading the first names of the children, slowly.
Cries and sobs filled the room. Children held stuffed teddy bears and dogs. The smallest children sat on their parents’ laps.
“That’s when it really hit home,” said Jose Sabillon, who attended the interfaith memorial with his son, Nick, who survived the shooting unharmed.
Obama said of the girls and boys who died: “God has called them all home. For those of us who remain, let us find the strength to carry on and make our country worthy of their memory.”
The president first met privately with families of the victims and with the emergency personnel who responded to the shootings.
Police and firefighters got hugs and standing ovations when they entered. So did Obama.
“We needed this,” said the Reverend Matt Crebbin, senior minister of the Newtown Congregational Church. “We needed to be together to show that we are together and united.”
Obama said his words of comfort would not be enough.
“I can only hope that it helps for you to know,” he said, “that you are not alone in your grief.”
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