One by one by one by one, each with fresh heartbreak, hearses crisscrossed two New England towns Wednesday, bearing three tiny victims of the Sandy Hook school massacre and a heroic teacher in a seemingly never-ending series of funeral processions.
“The first few days, all you heard were helicopters,” said Dr. Joseph Young, an optometrist who attended one funeral and would go to several more.
“Now at my office, all I hear is the rumble of motorcycle escorts and funeral processions going back and forth throughout the day,” he said.
As more victims from the slaughter of 20 children and six adults were laid to rest, long funeral processions clogged the streets of Newtown, where Christmas trees were turned into memorials and a season that should be a time of joy was marked by heart-wrenching loss.
At least nine funerals and wakes took place Wednesday for those who died when Adam Lanza, armed with a military-style assault rifle, broke into the school last Friday and opened fire on their classrooms.
Lanza also killed his mother at her home before committing suicide.
At St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church, mourners arrived for Caroline Previdi, an auburn-haired 6-year-old with an impish smile, before the service had even ended for Daniel Barden, a 7-year-old who dreamed of being a firefighter.
Hundreds of firefighters formed a long blue line outside the church for little Daniel’s funeral.
Two of his relatives work at the Fire Department of New York, and the gap-toothed redhead had wanted to join their ranks one day.
Across town, at Christ the King Lutheran Church, hundreds gathered for the funeral of Charlotte Helen Bacon, many wearing buttons picturing the 6-year-old redhead.
In nearby Stratford, family and friends gathered to say goodbye to Victoria Soto, a first-grade teacher hailed as a hero for trying to shield her students, some of whom managed to escape.
Musician Paul Simon, a family friend, performed “The Sound of Silence” at the service.
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.