Saturday 21 April 2018

Schools reopen, but fear hangs in air after rampage

Jon Swaine Monroe, Connecticut

The engines of Newtown's yellow school buses sputtered back to life yesterday morning after a long, cold weekend. Their drivers had 20 seats to spare.

Some 4,700 children from the sleepy Connecticut town were ferried back to class for the first time since last Friday morning, when a local 20 year old shot his way through Sandy Hook Elementary.

Police were on guard at every gate. "We had babies sent to school that should be safe, and they weren't," said Lieutenant George Sinko. "You can't help but think if this could happen again."

Their building being America's worst crime scene, however, the surviving pupils of Sandy Hook had nowhere to go. Neighbours said yesterday that this may have been for the best.

Gene Rosen (69) recounted finding six of them sitting on his nearby driveway in the wake of the massacre. "We can't go back to school," one of them told him.

Another, Aidan Licata, one of Vicki Soto's pupils, told his mother what he had seen.

"The gunman burst into the room," Diane Licata told reporters. "He shot Ms Soto and then began shooting the children."

Aidan dashed behind the gunman, Adam Lanza, and darted for the exit. Before escaping, however, he paused and held the door for Emma, one of his friends. "They just ran," his mother said.

Six did not manage to get away. All their friends in Lauren Rousseau's first-grade classroom next door – whose final class photograph of 14 smiling faces emerged yesterday – were left behind.

When they are ready to return, the children of Sandy Hook will be taught in a disused middle school in neighbouring Monroe, where local labourers who cancelled other plans were hard at work yesterday.

"There isn't much we can do," said one local woman, as trucks and transit vans poured into the long driveway of Chalk Hill school, monitored by a policeman. "Except help the children left behind".


Jim Agostine, Monroe's superintendent of schools, has been so inundated with offers of help in preparing Chalk Hill's vacant classrooms that volunteers were, for now, being asked to stay away.

"We recognise that everyone would like to lend a helping hand," said Mr Agostine, "but we have been asked to hold back until the Newtown staff is settled in and they can direct our efforts."

In a coffee shop in nearby Danbury, where Ms Rousseau sometimes worked on evenings and weekends, a modest memorial and tribute book had been set up by her former colleagues.

They were "devastated" for her family, they said, and wanted "to show them a glimpse of how much she will be missed, and the impact she had here".

The third and fourth funerals for victims of the massacre – James Mattioli and Jessica Rekos, both six – were held yesterday, under the grey sky that has hung over Newtown since Lanza's rampage.

On a grassy verge off the motorway, a large US flag stood proud over 27 smaller ones, all lined in white fairy lights. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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