Most children in Newtown returned to classes Tuesday for the first time since last week’s massacre, but survivors of the shooting stayed at home and their school remained a crime scene.
In a thin drizzle, yellow school buses once again rolled through the Connecticut town, where some 5,400 children are enrolled.
But it was only a babystep back toward normality in a town that had been known for low crime and a tight sense of community until Friday, when a disturbed 20-year-old local man mowed down his mother, then 20 first-graders and six staff at the Sandy Hook Elementary School.
Classes began with up to two hours delay and extra security was posted outside buildings, with a squad car at Newtown Middle School and lines of yellow police tape keeping away journalists at Saint Rose Elementary.
At Hawley school, a couple accompanying their young son held hands and hugged the policeman at the entrance.
The survivors of the Sandy Hook massacre stayed at home, and were expected to return to classes later this week in a spare school near Newtown. Detectives and forensic scientists continued to pour over their school building in a painstaking attempt to piece together what happened when Adam Lanza opened fire with a military grade rifle.
In a sign of the heavy hearts in this picturesque New England town, the front grills of all school buses were decorated with green-and-white bows, the colors of Sandy Hook school. “The bows were hand-made overnight by the company’s owners and employees,” said Joan Baumgart of All-Star Transportation, which runs 50 school buses in Newtown.
Two girls and a six-year-old boy killed at the school were being buried Tuesday. On Monday, two boys were laid to rest in heart-rending ceremonies and funerals for staff and pupils were to go on all week.
Meanwhile, police remain tight-lipped about what they’ve found that might explain why Lanza, who had no history of violence, snapped.
Searches have concentrated on the school, but also the house were Adam Lanza and his mother Nancy lived — and where he shot her at the start of his spree.
Among the items being examined are the rifle and pistols that Lanza carried and which were owned by his mother. There have also been reports that the hard drive to his computer is getting close attention.
Bit by bit, a picture is emerging of a boy whom no one knew well and a mother who did everything to care for him, but, fatally, introduced him to her passion for target shooting at ranges.
Former schoolmate Alan Diaz told CNN that Lanza was “a very intelligent person” who had the “stereotypical nerd look” and unlike the backpack-toting classmates, always carried a computer bag.
“We all kind of knew that, like, he had problems socially and we kind of had a feeling that he might have had something wrong with him,” Diaz said.
He recalled playing violent computer games with Lanza, but said he was surprised to hear that his friend was going shooting with his mother.
“I never really imagined Adam wanting to hold a gun,” he said. “I don’t imagine shy, quiet people going to a shooting range.”
Reflecting the general mystification over Lanza’s meltdown, Diaz said: “At one point he was a good kid. The events he did that day may have been evil, but before then he was just another kid.”