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4:15 am
Fri December 21, 2012

Newtown Copes With Grief, Searches For Answers

Originally published on Fri December 21, 2012 10:16 am

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

And let's talk more about the Newtown shootings. The National Rifle Association holds a news conference this morning. The gun rights organization has been largely silent since the shootings but is promising a major announcement. The Motion Picture Association of America is also joining the discussion. Its chairman, Chris Dodd, says Hollywood wants to help America heal. Dodd did not specify exactly how the MPAA or Hollywood would do that, but film studios have so far tweaked their promotions of two violent films, delaying the premiere for Tom Cruise's latest action movie and cancelling the premiere of Quentin Tarantino's new movie.

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

And as we mentioned, this morning in Newtown, Connecticut, church bells will rang out, one for each victim. You're hearing some here. Cities across the country joined in the remembrance. As the small town in Connecticut copes with its grief, authorities are still searching for answers. NPR's Kirk Siegler reports.

KIRK SIEGLER, BYLINE: Lieutenant Paul Vance of the Connecticut State Police was a fixture at briefings in the days immediately after the shootings. He was stoic and calm as he described the devastating episode.

LIEUTENANT PAUL VANCE: On and off-duty troopers responded to the school and with Newtown police immediately upon arrival entered the school and began a complete active shooter search of the building.

SIEGLER: But for now, those regular briefings have stopped. Lieutenant Vance, however, did tell the New Haven ABC affiliate this week that it could be several more months before the state police issue their final report.

VANCE: I think that we all are standing shoulder to shoulder knowing that we still have a lot of work to do and we've got to get this work done.

SIEGLER: Last night, Newtown police chief Michael Kehoe issued a written statement asking for patience as authorities continue with, in his words, the daunting task of conducting countless interviews and analyzing evidence. Police say last Friday morning, Adam Lanza killed his mother in their home. He then went to the school where he shot the children and the staff before killing himself.

The questions remain. What spurred the attack and why Sandy Hook Elementary? Authorities say Lanza didn't have a criminal record and had no connection to the school. Two adults were injured, but survived the shooting and they'll be important witnesses going forward. Attorney General Eric Holder was here yesterday afternoon meeting with investigators and first responders in private.

But what is clear is that Lanza was heavily armed and carrying a lot of ammunition, and this deadly shooting spree has made Newtown the flashpoint in a renewed national debate over gun control. Deborah Flechner was paying a visit to a large makeshift memorial near the elementary school yesterday afternoon.

DEBORAH FLECHNER: I would like to see that, you know, at least something happens where, you know, we don't have to deal with this, that we don't have to deal with the fact that, you know, we have people coming into schools and just shooting up people. There's no need for it.

SIEGLER: Many residents of Newtown have grown weary of grief, fear, and they're exhausted from the scrutiny of reporters who've come here from around the world.

FLECHNER: It's rough for everybody. It's affected everybody.

SIEGLER: Newtown High sophomore Tess Stofko was at a table nearby where she and a couple of friends were selling baked goods, hoping to raise money for the families of victims.

TESS STOFKO: It gets better every day, but like still - it still really hurts sometimes and like we're trying to like think of them, like, and happy memories, you know.

SIEGLER: It's hard to do, though, when each morning the funeral processions begin, winding their way through Newtown's traffic-clogged streets. Just yesterday, six-year-old Catherine Hubbard's funeral was held at St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church. There are more services today and this weekend. Late yesterday, some of the satellite trucks and TV cameras along Churchill Road were starting to thin out, giving the residents of Newtown a little more room to breathe.

Officer Chip Carpenter with Sandy Hook volunteer fire and rescue says it will take a long time before life here gets back to normal, but Carpenter believes that the town can heal.

CHIP CARPENTER: Once it's over, media is gone, state police is gone, everybody's gone, Sandy Hook's gonna bounce right back and we'll get through this.

SIEGLER: Kirk Siegler, NPR News, Danbury, Connecticut. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.