NEWTOWN, Conn. – 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.
"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. 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.
The district has made plans to send surviving Sandy Hook students to Chalk Hill, a former middle school in the neighboring town of Monroe.
Sandy Hook desks that will fit the small students are being taken there, empty since town schools consolidated last year, and tradesmen are donating their services to get the school ready within a matter of days.
With Sandy Hook Elementary still designated a crime scene, state police Lt. Paul Vance said it could be months before police turn the school back over to the district.
Associated Press writers Allen G. Breed, Helen O'Neill, John Christoffersen, Pat Eaton-Robb and Katie Zezima in Newtown; Christine Armario in Miami; and Julie Pace in Washington contributed to this report.