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Shattered Newtown tries to make sense of tragedy

Published on NewsOK Modified: December 19, 2012 at 6:07 pm •  Published: December 19, 2012
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"She had the perfect job. She loved her job," said Vicky Ruiz, a friend since first grade. Every year, Soto described her students the same way, Ruiz said. "They were always good kids. They were always angels," even if, like typical first-graders, they might not always listen.

In Woodbury, a line of colleagues, students and friends of slain Sandy Hook Principal Dawn Hochsprung, 47, wrapped around the block to pay their respects to the administrator, who rushed the gunman in an effort to stop him and paid with her life. U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan attended the service.

"She loved kids. She'd do anything to help them and protect them," said Joann Opulski of Roxbury.

In emotion-charged Newtown, tempers flared as residents of the town of 27,000 navigated the hordes of reporters and camera crews that descended on the town. Some shouted at reporters outside the funerals Wednesday, urging them to leave their town in peace.

Cynthia Gubitos said the shooting and its aftermath have jolted what she described as a quintessential "Norman Rockwell, New England community."

"Nobody knew about Sandy Hook," Gubitose said as she placed flowers at a memorial with bouquets stacked chest-high. "Many of the people that live here like it that way."

The symbol of Christmas took on a new meaning in the town, where one memorial featured 26 Christmas trees — one for each victim at the school.

Edward Kish said he bought a Christmas tree two days before the shooting, but hasn't had the heart to put it up or decorate it.

"I'll still put it up, probably," he said. "It doesn't seem right, and it doesn't seem like Christmas."

Mourners from across the country came to offer condolences. A jazz band from Alabama played at the main memorial site as local children played with a team of trained therapy dogs brought in to provide comfort.

The massacre continued to reverberate around America as citizens and lawmakers debated whether Newtown might be a turning point in the often-polarizing national discussion over gun control.

President Barack Obama pressed Congress to reinstate an assault weapons ban, which expired in 2004. He also called for stricter background checks for people who seek to purchase weapons and limited high-capacity clips.

"This time, the words need to lead to action," said Obama, who set a January deadline for the recommendations.

Authorities say the horrific events of Friday began when Lanza shot his mother, Nancy, at their home, and then took her car and some of her guns to the nearby school.

Investigators have found no letters or diaries that could explain the attack.

However, Connecticut's chief medical examiner, Dr. H. Wayne Carver, told The Hartford Courant he is looking for genetic clues that might explain the behavior, and is working with the University of Connecticut department of genetics.

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Contributing to this report were Associated Press writers Allen G. Breed, Helen O'Neill, John Christoffersen, Katie Zezima and Pat Eaton-Robb in Newtown; Michael Melia in Hartford; Larry Margasak in Washington and AP Business Writer Joshua Freed in Minneapolis.