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The painful process of burying the victims of Friday's shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, began today with the funeral of the youngest victim. Noah Pozner leaves behind a 6-year-old twin sister, as well as his mother, father and three other siblings. He was remembered at a service in nearby Fairfield, and NPR's Tovia Smith was there.
TOVIA SMITH, BYLINE: Friends, family and strangers lined up in the bitter, raw cold, waiting to pay their respects.
CAROL WINESHELL: I just felt compelled to be here to show support. This is such a painful, beyond belief situation.
SMITH: Carol Wineshell(ph), who retired from a nearby school district last year, came hoping to comfort herself and the family and to learn a little more about Noah.
WINESHELL: His name will live on forever in the minds and hearts of so many who didn't know him.
SMITH: Noah was being remembered as sharp as a whip, sweet, inseparable from his twin sister, Arielle, and a bit of a rambunctious little guy. His family wept beside a small wood casket and were embraced by Governor Dan Malloy and other dignitaries. A family friend and Chabad rabbi, Yisroel Deren, invoked the just-completed holiday of Hanukkah, saying he hoped eventually light would triumph over darkness.
RABBI YISROEL DEREN: Noah, his classmates and the heroic teachers who gave their lives trying to protect them are with God in heaven. Now it's our responsibility to bring heaven down to earth - act by act, good deed by good deed, until we reach a world filled with goodness and light.
SMITH: Another rabbi, Shaul Praver, said Noah's mom, Veronique, described feeling a lead cloud over her head. She decided to keep the service open to the public not only to help others mourning, but also, Praver says, to help process her own grief.
RABBI SHAUL PRAVER: They want to scream it from the rooftops: My little boy, you know, he was a beautiful boy, and I want to tell you all about him. I just want you to know. I want you to see what he looks like and be part of our grief because everyone that shares maybe helps carry it a little bit.
SMITH: Praver says he hopes today's burial will be the start of a turning point in the family's healing process, though he notes no one should expect that process to be an even or straight line. He says Noah's mother, an oncology nurse, hit a low yesterday after viewing her son.
PRAVER: You know, at first, she was like, you know, go, my son, from this dark, terrible, world. You know, go to the blue skies. Go to the green grass. And then, you know, like another voice came out, and she was like, Mama needs you, you know, like chains, you know? And then she went back to, you know, go, go. You know, don't listen to Mom. She said: Don't listen to Mommy. And, you know, it's very tough stuff.
SMITH: Inside the funeral home, the sense of love and community was as intense as the pain and heartache, according to Lieutenant James Perez of the Fairfield Police.
LIEUTENANT JAMES PEREZ: It's beyond dread. It's beyond sadness. I've been to a lot of funerals, but this one really shakes you to the core.
SMITH: And this, of course, is just the beginning. Also today, another 6-year-old, Jack Pinto, was remembered for the sparkle in his eye and his irresistible energy. It's just the first of 11 Sandy Hook memorials planned for that funeral home, straining local clergy as well as the community. Tiffany Hamilton(ph) doesn't personally know anyone who was killed, but was moved enough to help efforts to hang white balloons outside a funeral home.
TIFFANY HAMILTON: I wanted to do something. These babies, they're innocent, and I wanted to do something. It's sad. It's really sad.
SMITH: As one who was inside Noah Pozner's funeral put it, everyone is there to support the family, but it's difficult to do when you yourself are broken. Tovia Smith, NPR News, Fairfield, Connecticut. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.