NEWTOWN, CT (AP) - Mourners overlapped at back-to-back services as funerals began in earnest in a Connecticut town that lost 20 of its children and seven adults to a gunman, with emotions and tempers in tatters amid a global crush of media attention to a community once known mostly for its bucolic atmosphere and sterling school system.
At St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church in Newtown, a service for first-grader James Mattioli had not concluded when mourners began arriving for the funeral of little Jessica Rekos, the first of eight to be held in the coming days at the church. Several more sets of funerals and visitation hours were set throughout town Wednesday.
Students went back to classes the day before, except for those at Sandy Hook Elementary, where a lone gunman armed with a military-style assault rifle slaughtered the children, six adults and himself by the time Friday's massacre ended. He also killed his mother at her home.
Pupils at Sandy Hook, which serves kindergarten through fourth grade, will resume classes in a formerly shuttered school in a neighboring community after the winter break, the Connecticut Post reported.
"It's definitely better than just sitting at home watching the news," sophomore Tate Schwab said outside Newtown High School. "It really hasn't sunk in yet. It feels to me like it hasn't happened."
The tragedy continued to reverberate around America as citizens and lawmakers debated whether Newtown might be a turning point in the often polarizing national discussion of gun-control.
Private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management announced Tuesday it plans to sell its stake in Freedom Group, maker of the Bushmaster rifle, following the school shootings. In Pittsburgh, Dick's Sporting Goods said it is suspending sales of modern rifles nationwide because of the shooting. The company also said it's removing all guns from display at its store closest to Newtown.
A former co-chairman of the Congressional Sportsmen's Caucus, Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Calif., and 10-term House Republican Jack Kingston, a Georgia lawmaker elected with strong National Rifle Association backing, were the latest to join the call to consider gun control as part of a comprehensive, anti-violence effort next year.
"Put guns on the table. Also put video games on the table. Put mental health on the table," Kingston said.
But he added that nothing should be done immediately, saying, "There is a time for mourning and a time to sort it out. I look forward to sorting it out and getting past the grief stage."
White House spokesman Jay Carney said President Barack Obama was "actively supportive" of a plan by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., to introduce legislation to reinstate an assault weapons ban. While Obama has long supported a ban, he did little to get it passed during his first term.
The National Rifle Association, silent since the shootings, said in a statement that it was "prepared to offer meaningful contributions to help make sure this never happens again." It gave no indication what that might entail.
Around Newtown, people had plenty of opinions about the gun debate but were focused on more immediate tasks: shaking off the fear, mourning loved ones and burying the dead.
At a wake Tuesday for 27-year-old first-grade teacher Victoria Soto, hundreds of mourners, many wearing ribbons in the school colors of green and white, stood in a line that wrapped around a funeral home in nearby Stratford. Soto has been hailed as a hero for dying while trying to shield her students, some of whom managed to escape.
"Big smile, great eyes, just a wonderful person," Lauren Ostrofsky said. "If anyone could be an example of what a person should be today, it's her."
At St. Rose, a motorcade led by police motorcycles arrived for the funeral of James Mattioli, who loved recess and math and was described by his family as a "numbers guy" who couldn't wait until he was old enough to order a foot-long Subway sandwich.
Traffic in front of the church slowed to a crawl as police directed vehicles into the parking lot. A school bus carrying elementary students got stuck in traffic, and the children, pressing their faces into the windows, sadly watched as the mourners assembled.
Immediately afterward was the funeral for Jessica Rekos, who loved horses and was counting the years until she turned 10, when her family had promised her a horse of her own. For Christmas, she had asked Santa for new cowgirl boots and hat.
Tensions in the shattered community ran high as the grief of parents and townspeople collided with media reporting on the shootings and the funerals. Police walked children to parents waiting in cars to protect them from the cameras. Many parents yelled at reporters to leave their children and the town alone.
At Newtown High, students in sweat shirts and jackets, many wearing headphones, had mixed reactions. Some waved at or snapped photos of the assembled media horde, while others appeared visibly shaken.
Students said they didn't get