Memorial for Sandy Hook victims grows as first victims laid to rest

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NEWTOWN, Conn. - A grief-stricken Newtown on Monday began burying the littlest victims of the school massacre, starting with two 6-year-old boys — one of them a big football fan, the other a mischievous, whip-smart youngster whose twin sister survived the rampage.

Family, friends and townspeople streamed to two funeral homes to say goodbye to Jack Pinto, who loved the New York Giants and idolized their star wide receiver, and Noah Pozner, who liked to figure out how things worked mechanically.

"If Noah had not been taken from us, he would have become a great man. He would been a wonderful husband and a loving father," his uncle Alexis Haller told mourners, according to remarks he provided to The Associated Press. Both services were closed to the news media.

Noah's twin, Arielle, who was assigned to a different classroom, survived the killing frenzy by 20-year-old Adam Lanza that left 20 children and six adults dead last week at Sandy Hook Elementary in an attack so horrifying that authorities cannot say whether the school will ever reopen.

As investigators worked to figure out what drove Lanza to lash out with such fury — and why he singled out the school — federal agents said that the young man had fired guns at shooting ranges over the past several years but that there was no evidence he did so recently as practice for the rampage.

At Jack's Christian service, hymns rang out from inside the funeral home, where the boy lay in an open casket. Jack was one of the youngest members of the Newtown youth wrestling association, and dozens of boys in gray Newtown Wrestling T-shirts were at the funeral, as was his coach.

A mourner, Gwendolyn Glover, said the service carried a message of comfort and protection, particularly for other children.

"The message was: You're secure now. The worst is over," she said.

The funeral program bore a quotation from the Book of Revelation: "God shall wipe away all tears. There shall be no more death. Neither sorrow nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain."

A rabbi presided at Noah's service, and in keeping with Jewish tradition, the boy was laid to rest in a simple brown wooden casket adorned with a Star of David.

His uncle described him as a smart, funny and mischievous child who loved animals and Mario Brothers video games, and liked to tease his sisters by telling them he worked in a taco factory.

"It is unspeakably tragic that none of us can bring Noah back," Haller said. "We would go to the ends of the earth to do so, but none of us can. What we can do is carry Noah within us, always. We can remember the joy he brought to us. We can hold his memory close to our hearts. We can treasure him forever."

At both funeral homes, people wrestled with the same questions as the rest of the country — what steps could and should be taken to prevent something like the massacre from happening again.

"If people want to go hunting, a single-shot rifle does the job, and that does the job to protect your home, too. If you need more than that, I don't know what to say," Ray DiStephan said outside Noah's funeral.

He added: "I don't want to see my kids go to schools that become maximum-security fortresses. That's not the world I want to live in, and that's not the world I want to raise them in."

As those gathered to mourn the first of the victims to be buried, masses of people trekked down Riverside Drive in the small town. For many, this was their first time visiting the neighborhood where Friday's tragedy unfolded.

"I had to come down to see it," said Barbara Highten.

Highten said she had seen the pictures on TV, but actually being there was like seeing it for the first time.

"It's really... it's really bad. Really sad and everything," Highten said.

The corner of the street is the closest anyone can get to Sandy Hook Elementary School. It is also the site for one of the biggest memorials in Newtown, which includes a Christmas tree for each fallen child and school worker.

Many people brought their own ornaments, typically symbols of holiday cheer, now being used as a message of love and support.

"It shows everyone cares that we all are looking out for all the children," one woman said. "And hoping nothing like this ever happens again."

"We're all praying for them, that everyone is going to do OK," another woman said.

Classes were canceled Monday, and Newtown's other schools were to reopen Tuesday. The district made plans to send surviving Sandy Hook students to a former middle school in the neighboring town of Monroe.

Sandy Hook desks are being taken to the Chalk Hill school in Monroe, empty since town schools consolidated last year, and tradesmen are donating their services to get the school ready within a matter of days.

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