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Classes resuming in Newtown, minus Sandy Hook

Tuesday - 12/18/2012, 10:14am  ET

By DAVID KLEPPER and MICHAEL MELIA
Associated Press

NEWTOWN, Conn. (AP) - With security stepped up and families still on edge in Newtown, students began returning to school Tuesday for the first time since last week's massacre, bringing a return of familiar routines _ at least, for some _ to a grief-stricken town as it buries 20 of its children.

One 6-year-old boy's funeral was under way Tuesday morning, and two other 6-year-old boys were laid to rest Monday in the first of a long, almost unbearable procession of funerals. A total of 26 people were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary in one of the worst mass shootings in U.S history.

Classes resume Tuesday for Newtown schools except those at Sandy Hook. At Newtown High School, students in sweatshirts and jackets, many wearing headphones, betrayed mixed emotions. Some waved at or snapped photos of the assembled media horde, and others appeared visibly shaken, one with his hand to his brow.

"There's going to be no joy in school," said 17-year-old senior P.J. Hickey. "It really doesn't feel like Christmas anymore."

At St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church in Newtown, a hearse arrived Tuesday morning carrying the casket of first-grader James Mattioli for the first of eight funerals of victims to be held in the coming days at the church. Mourners gathered outside, and the family followed the casket in.

At the high school, students didn't expect to get much work done Tuesday but rather anticipated most of the day would be spent talking about the shooting.

"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. Nobody can do this alone," Hickey said.

Sophomore Tate Schwab echoed that.

"It's definitely better than just sitting at home watching the news," he said.

"It really hasn't sunk in yet," he said. "It feels to me like it hasn't happened. It's really weird."

As for concerns about safety, Hickey was defiant.

"This is where I feel the most at home. I feel safer here than anywhere else in the world."

Some parents were likely to keep their children at home anyway. Local police and school officials have been discussing how and where to increase security, and state police said they would be on alert for threats and hoaxes.

On Monday, Newtown held the first two funerals of many the picturesque New England community of 27,000 people will face over the next few days, just as other towns are getting ready for the holidays. At least one funeral is planned for a student _ 6-year-old Jessica Rekos _ as well as several wakes, including one for teacher Victoria Soto, who has been hailed as a hero for sacrificing herself to save several students.

Two funeral homes filled Monday with mourners for Noah Pozner and Jack Pinto, both 6 years old. 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 with a Star of David on it.

"I will miss your perpetual smile, the twinkle in your dark blue eyes, framed by eyelashes that would be the envy of any lady in this room," Noah's mother, Veronique Pozner, said at the service, according to remarks the family provided to The Associated Press. Both services were closed to the news media.

"Most of all, I will miss your visions of your future," she said. "You wanted to be a doctor, a soldier, a taco factory manager. It was your favorite food, and no doubt you wanted to ensure that the world kept producing tacos."

She closed by saying: "Momma loves you, little man."

Noah's twin, Arielle, who was assigned to a different classroom, survived the killing frenzy.

At Jack Pinto's Christian service, hymns rang out from inside the funeral home, where the boy lay in an open casket. Jack was among the youngest members of a youth wrestling association in Newtown, and dozens of little boys turned up at the service in gray Newtown Wrestling T-shirts.

Jack was a fan of New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz and was laid to rest in a Cruz jersey.

Authorities say the man who killed the two boys and their classmates, 20-year-old Adam Lanza, shot his mother, Nancy, at their home and then took her car and some of her guns to the school, where he broke in and opened fire. A Connecticut official said the mother, a gun enthusiast who practiced at shooting ranges, was found dead in her pajamas in bed, shot four times in the head with a .22-caliber rifle.

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