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Sandy Hook's fallen: On day six, three towns united by mourning

December 19, 2012|By Shashank Bengali

WOODBURY, Conn. -- On the front lawn, white paper bags had been arranged to spell out "Hope."

Hundreds of mourners descended Wednesday on a tiny funeral home in this picture-postcard town to pay their respects to Dawn Hochsprung, Sandy Hook Elementary's beloved principal, who was rushing toward the gunman in the first moments of last Friday's rampage when she was shot.

Wearing winter coats and hats to ward off the chill, friends, colleagues and family members -- some carrying flowers -- lined up outside the funeral home as the sun began to set on a clear, crisp afternoon.

PHOTOS: Mourning after the massacre

Wednesday was another day of one-after-another services that tested some Connecticut communities' ability to cope, both emotionally and logistically: Well-wishers and mourners packed churches in Newtown and Stratford and a funeral home in Woodbury to honor the dead.

"It's really traumatic," said Lesley Petrafassi of Waterbury, a relative of Hochsprung's. "She was very devoted to her family ... and all her students. She touched a lot of people."

About 3:30 p.m., a black stretch limousine pulled into the Woodbury funeral home, where Hochsprung's wake was being held. Emblazoned with the initials of the U.S. Department of Transportation, it was believed to be carrying Education Secretary Arne Duncan, who was in Connecticut to meet with Sandy Hook staff and to attend Hochsprung's service, his office said.

"It's a testament to the kind of person she was," said Jerry Oglen, 28, a friend of Hochsprung's family. "She was super-outgoing. She took everything head-on."

On Wednesday, funeral services were also held for students Charlotte Bacon, 6, Caroline Previdi, 6, and Daniel Barden, 7, all in Newtown. A service for teacher Victoria Soto, 27, was held in Stratford, where she lived.

At St. Rose of Lima Church in Newtown, bagpipes played "America the Beautiful" as more than 70 cars filed past a line of saluting firefighters at the end of Daniel's funeral service.

Lt. Eddie Boles called the tributes to Daniel "beautiful" and said that several loved ones spoke of the slain first-grader's cheerful spirit.

Dozens of firefighters from New York City, upstate New York and farther afield answered calls from Daniel's family to attend the service. Daniel had wanted to be a firefighter when he grew up, family members said.

Mourners arriving for Caroline's funeral had to wait outside or in an adjacent building because Daniel's service was still going on.

"Caroline loved to draw and dance," her family wrote in her obituary notice. "Her smile brought happiness to everyone she touched."

Edward Kish, a friend of the Previdi family, remembered Caroline as "a jokester" who liked to wear pink and purple dresses. She was also a Yankees fan. Once, her cousins brought her to Yankee Stadium for a game, recalled Kish, 44, who was working at the stadium box office at the time.

"She was thrilled," he said, before heading into the church. "Just such a happy girl."

So many mourners came for Caroline's services that there wasn't anyplace to sit. Both of her parents spoke, as did her big brother Walker, a Cub Scout. Other scouts, in their uniforms, also attended.

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Matt Pearce in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

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