Fairfield, CT - Hundreds of mourners said their goodbyes on Monday to two little boys who loved football and tacos and who lost their lives along with 18 other children when a gunman burst into their school and started shooting.
Family, friends and townspeople streamed into two funeral homes to mourn two 6-year-olds: Jack Pinto, who was buried in a New York Giants jersey, and Noah Pozner, who loved animals and video games and liked to figure out how things worked mechanically. His twin sister, Arielle, was in another classroom and survived.
The funeral for Noah, the youngest child to be killed, was held at a Jewish funeral home in Fairfield, Conn., on a street lined with clusters of white balloons, which have become something of a symbol of grief for the children who died. On a tree outside the white clapboard house was a green hand-lettered sign that read: "Our hearts are with you Noah."
Well-wishers placed two teddy bears, a bouquet of white flowers and a single red rose at the base of a maple tree in front of the funeral home.
Rabbi Edgar Gluck, who attended the service, said the first person to speak was Noah's mother, Veronique, who told mourners that her son's ambition when he grew up was to either be director of a plant that makes tacos -- because that was his favorite food -- or to be a doctor.
She said that whenever she would tell Noah she loved him he would always reply: Not as much as I love you.
Mourners arriving for the service walked from the corner where police set up a perimeter. Most shunned the media. When one woman was asked if she wanted to say something about Noah, she said, "Just that we love him," but another woman responded: "I want to say I think you should go away."
In a statement, the Pozner family said they were overwhelmed and grateful for all the support "from people from all walks of life, from far and near."
"Noah, his classmates and the heroic teachers who gave their lives trying to protect them are with God in heaven," the statement said. "Now it's our responsibility to bring heaven down to earth -- act by act, good deed by good deed, until we reach the day when no family will need to endure grief and sorrow, the day we reach a world filled with goodness and light.''
Hannah Dorsh, 20, a criminal justice student from Hamden, Conn., didn't know the Pozner family but said she came to the service to show support and a shared sense of grief.
"It's terrible," she said, adding as a criminal justice student, "I'm pretty used to hearing bad news, but this -- when you can relentlessly shoot young kids, it makes it different."
About 30 police officers as well as some firefighters blocked the street. Bomb-sniffing dogs swept the funeral home before the family arrived.
Fairfield Police Chief Gary MacNamara said there were no specific threats but after a phone threat Sunday that caused the evacuation of St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church in Newtown in the middle of Mass, he wanted to be sure the building was clear before the service started.
"Nothing's going to interrupt this service for the families," he said. "No one should take the opportunity to grieve from this family."
Fairfield police Lt. James Perez said the Pozner family received family and friends in a private room adjacent to the room where the service was to be held and where Noah's body lay in a small, brown, closed casket.
The sight of the little coffin "literally rendered me speechless," said Perez, the department's public information officer. "And I've been to a lot of funerals."
He described the atmosphere as "beyond somber, beyond dread, beyond sadness" and said the family is "devastated."
Signs of Jack Pinto's love of sports and images from his short childhood filled the Honan Funeral Home in Newtown as hundreds came to say goodbye to the 6-year-old.
Inside a dimly lit room with pale-green walls, Jack's small, white casket was bordered by dozens of red, white and yellow flowers and poster-size photos of him. The pictures showed happy times: Jack posing in a New York Giants jersey, standing along a beach and smiling in snowgear.
Nearby a poster board held a collage of photos with the message: "We Love You Jack."
Buried in a white No. 80 New York Giants jersey, Jack held a small metal cross and a stuffed animal in his right hand. On his left side lay a ceramic angel and another gray stuffed animal.
The sadness inside was palpable as parents consoled children whose small bodies shook with tears. Mourners in three rooms strained to hear as several people got up to tell stories about the young man.
On a table at the entrance, mourners used colored markers to write messages to the family on several white poster boards bearing images of Jack. A small gold-and-navy Newtown football helmet read "Jack God bless you."
Dark-green memorial cards with a photo of Jack and an image of a baseball were handed out to mourners.
Outside, 12 people sang "Amazing Grace" and "It Is Well With My Soul" for hours in the rain as people waited to enter.
One mourner, Gwendolyn Glover, said that Jack was in an open casket and that the service was a message of comfort and protection, particularly for other children.
"The message was: You're secure now. The worst is over," she said.
The funeral program bore a quote from the Book of Revelation: "God shall wipe away all tears. There shall be no more death. Neither sorrow nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain."
It's been three days since the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School and a day after President Obama pledged to seek change in memory of the 20 children and six adults ruthlessly slain by a gunman packing a high-powered rifle.
"We're just now getting ready to talk to our son about who was killed," said Robert Licata, the father of a student who escaped harm during the shooting. "He's not even there yet."
Newtown officials couldn't say whether Sandy Hook Elementary, where authorities said all the victims were shot at least twice, would ever reopen. Monday classes were canceled, and the district was making plans to send surviving Sandy Hook students to a former school building in a neighboring town.
Authorities say the gunman shot his mother, Nancy Lanza, at their home and then took her car and several of her guns to the school, where he broke in and shot his victims to death, then himself. A Connecticut official said the mother was found dead in her pajamas in bed, shot four times in the head with a .22-caliber rifle.
During his later rampage, terrified staffers at the school stayed hidden for hours, not knowing how many shooters there were.
Sheila DiNardo, 66, is a friend of Jack Pinto's grandparents and attended the young man's funeral on Monday.
"All these children died before their time," said DiNardo, right before walking into the funeral home. "Faith will hopefully get us through."