Heartbreak, haunting memories and more funerals in Newtown
NEWTOWN, Connecticut (CNN) — In yet another day of heartbreak, three more tiny victims of a massacre in Newtown will be laid to rest Thursday, a now-familiar sight of processions rolling down streets lined with tearful mourners.
Grace McDonnell, 7, blew kisses at her mother a few hours before she was gunned down.
Benjamin Wheeler, 6, with the impish smile, was a big fan of the Beatles.
Red-headed Catherine Hubbard, 6, loved animals.
As Newtown faces another somber day, it is also bracing for the sight of dark hearses and funeral processions for days.
The Connecticut Funeral Directors Association announced a total of 22 funerals, nine concluded before Thursday. A list of more to come runs through Saturday.
Funeral processions turned the holiday season into a period of heart-wrenching loss.
The town converted Christmas trees into memorials for the 20 children and six adults killed when a gunman blasted his way through Sandy Hook Elementary School.
The gunman then killed himself. Earlier, he had fatally shot his mother.
Residents of the close-knit community have braved cold, rainy weather for hours to pay their respects to the victims.
“It’s an assembly line of wakes and funerals,” said Lillian Bittman, former chairwoman of the Newtown education board. “We can’t even figure out which ones to go to. There are so many.”
In addition to the young victims, the community also paid tribute to those who died protecting them.
A police honor guard saluted Victoria Soto, 27, a first-grade teacher killed trying to shield her students from bullets. Bagpipers played outside the Lordship Community Church in Stratford, Connecticut.
Singer Paul Simon, a friend of the family, sang “The Sound of Silence” at her parents’ request.
“You were an angel to those 19 children you protected, to the 19 families and the community,” Soto’s sister, Jillian, said at the service Wednesday.
Soto wanted to be a teacher since she was age 3.
School principal Dawn Hochsprung’s private funeral will be held Thursday outside Connecticut.
The community bid farewell to several students Wednesday: Daniel Barden, 7, and Caroline Previdi and Charlotte Bacon, both 6.
As the grieving continues, new details emerged about the gunman’s mother.
Just before the shooting, Nancy Lanza was on vacation alone at a luxury resort in New Hampshire, friends said Wednesday.
She checked in at the Omni Mount Washington Resort & Hotel in Bretton Woods on Tuesday, December 11 and left two days later, the hotel said.
Soon after she left the hotel, authorities say, her son Adam Lanza, 20, killed her and opened fire at the elementary school. She checked out Thursday afternoon. Her son went on a shooting rampage Friday morning.
It was not unusual for her to take road trips alone, according to her friends. She seemed to be in good spirits during the trip and felt comfortable leaving her son unsupervised in recent years, they said.
Authorities have said the shooter took three of his mother’s weapons — two handguns and a Bushmaster AR-15 rifle — to the elementary school.
The complete police report is not expected to be out for months, according to the Connecticut State Police. Investigators will be sitting down with the victims’ families and survivors for a long time to come.
The deadly shooting rampage has ignited renewed national debates over gun control, mental health care and school safety.
U.S. President Barack Obama pushed for a quick January deadline for proposals to deal with gun violence.
A new group led by Vice President Joe Biden is charged with developing “concrete proposals” for dealing with gun violence “no later than January.” Obama said. The group will include some Cabinet members and outside organizations.
No single law or set of laws can prevent gun violence, but the complexity of the issue “can no longer be an excuse for doing nothing,” he said.
Obama urged quick action from Congress, saying authorities must work to make “access to mental health care at least as easy as access to a gun.”
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California, has said she will introduce legislation to reinstate the assault weapons ban that expired in 2004. The White House said Tuesday that the president supports that effort.
Some cities nationwide are planning a moment of silence Friday morning, a week since the massacre.
HLN journalist Rita Cosby and CNN’s Ben Brumfield, Jessica Yellin, Dave Alsup, Susan Candiotti, Sandra Endo, Faith Karimi and Daphne Sashin contributed to this report.