December 21, 2012 12:28:20 PM
NEWTOWN, Conn. -- When people here speak of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School, they use the number 26: the ones killed after Adam Lanza stormed his way into the school.
When the bells of Newtown toll mournfully Friday morning to honor the victims of last week's shooting rampage, they'll do so 26 times, for each child and staff member killed.
Rarely do residents mention the first person police said Lanza killed that morning: his mother, Nancy, who was shot in the head four times while she lay in bed.
That makes 27.
A private funeral was held Thursday in New Hampshire for Nancy Lanza, according to Donald Briggs, the police chief in Kinston, N.H., where her funeral was held. About 25 family members attended the ceremony.
In Newtown, where makeshift memorials of stuffed animals, angels, candles, flowers and balloons have blossomed on patches of grass throughout town, there is only one noticeable tribute to Nancy Lanza. It's a letter written by a friend on yellow paper affixed, screwed and shellacked onto a red piece of wood.
"Others now share pain for choices you faced alone; May the blameless among us throw the first stone," it reads in part.
No one outwardly blames Nancy Lanza for the rampage. But authorities have said the gunman, her 20-year-old son Adam, used the guns she kept at their home to carry out a massacre that became the second-deadliest school shooting in U.S. history and has stirred lawmakers to call for gun control laws.
Nationwide, churches will ring their bells 26 times at 9:30 Friday morning -- exactly a week after the shooting occurred -- in memory of the victims. Two gold balloons, one a 2, the other a 6, are tied to a bridge. Handwritten tributes mention 26 snowflakes. "26 angels will guide us," reads one.
The dearth of tributes to Nancy Lanza underscores the complicated mix of emotions surrounding her after the shooting.
In a small town where multiple funerals are taking place each day, where black-clad mourners stand in lines waiting to say goodbye to another child, many are incredibly angry at Nancy Lanza for not keeping her guns away from her son.
Some view her as a victim, but one whose guns were used to kill first-graders. And others think Nancy Lanza was an innocent victim, one who should be counted and included at memorials.
"It's a loss of life and, yes, her life mattered," said Christine Lombardi. "Yes, I do believe she should be included."
Others in Newtown are weary of the crush of media and have become reluctant to answer questions after a difficult week. But the subject of marking Nancy Lanza's death, along with those of the children and teachers killed by her son, seemed mainly to surprise two moms who stopped to place flowers at the memorial at Main and Sugar streets with their two grammar-school aged girls.
They paused, appeared bewildered, and looked at each other for a moment. Then one quietly said, "No, no," and they each took a girl's hand and led them away.
Newtown and environs weathered a fourth day of funerals Thursday as mourners laid to rest Catherine Hubbard, Benjamin Wheeler, Jesse Lewis and Allison Wyatt, all 6 years old; and Grace McDonnell, 7.
A service was held in Katonah, N.Y., for teacher Anne Marie Murphy, 52, who authorities believe helped shield some of her students from the rain of bullets. Roman Catholic Cardinal Timothy Dolan compared her to Jesus.
"Like Jesus, Annie laid down her life for her friends," Dolan said. "Like Jesus, Annie's life and death brings light, truth, goodness and love to a world often shrouded in darkness, evil, selfishness and death."
A bell tolled Thursday at Newtown's St. Rose of Lima Roman Catholic Church at the funeral for Catherine, who her family said would be remembered for her passion for animals and her constant smile.
Trinity Episcopal church on Main Street was filled to capacity for the funeral for Benjamin, described as a budding musician and Beatles fan. His service included a rendition of "Here Comes The Sun." About two dozen Boy Scout leaders lined the front pathway to the church in honor of the former Cub Scout.
In downtown Danbury, mourners filed into the ornate white-pillared First Congregational Church for a memorial service for 30-year-old teacher Lauren Rousseau. Friends wept at the altar as they remembered the spirited, hardworking, sunny-natured woman who brightened their lives with silliness and gave them all nicknames.
Gov. Dannel Malloy has asked people across Connecticut to observe a moment of silence at 9:30 a.m. Friday, which will mark a week since the shootings. The White House has said President Barack Obama will privately observe the moment of silence.
Places of worship and buildings with bells have been asked to ring them 26 times, for the victims at the school. Officials and clergy in many other states have said they will participate.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder was one of the people to visit Newtown on Thursday, stopping by a firehouse.
The Obama administration will push to tighten gun laws in response to the shooting, Vice President Joe Biden said Thursday, and Speaker John Boehner said the GOP-controlled House would consider the proposals.
Biden, who is overseeing the administration's response to Friday's shooting, said he and Obama are "absolutely committed" to curbing gun violence in the United States.
"Even if we can only save one life, we have to take action," he said.
Gun-control measures have faced fierce resistance in Congress for years, but that may be changing because of the events in Connecticut, which shocked the nation.
After the shooting, Obama signaled for the first time that he's willing to spend significant political capital on the issue. Some prominent gun-rights advocates on Capitol Hill -- Democrats and Republicans alike -- have expressed willingness to consider new measures.
Investigators have said that Nancy Lanza, a gun enthusiast, visited shooting ranges several times and that her son also visited an area range.
Authorities say Adam Lanza shot his mother at their home and then took her car and some of her guns to the school, where he broke in and opened fire. A Connecticut official said Nancy Lanza was shot four times in the head with a .22-caliber rifle.
Adam Lanza was wearing all black, with an olive-drab utility vest, during the school attack. Investigators have found no letters or diaries that could explain the rampage.
Friends and acquaintances have described him as intelligent, but odd and quiet.
Friends said he would stare down at the floor and not speak when she brought him into a local pizzeria. They knew that he'd switched schools more than once and that she'd tried home schooling him. But while she occasionally expressed concern about his future during evenings at the bar, she never complained.
"I heard her as a parent. I always said that I wouldn't want to be in her shoes. But I thought, 'Wow. She holds it well,"' said Jon Tambascio, son of the pizzeria operator.