Newtown first responders carry heavy burdens

NEWTOWN, Conn. (AP) — While the people of

Newtown do their best to cope with loss and preserve the memories of

their loved

ones, another class of residents is also finding it difficult to

move on: the emergency responders who saw firsthand the terrible

aftermath of last week's school shooting.

Firefighter Peter Barresi was driving

through Newtown on Friday when police cars with lights flashing and

sirens blaring raced

toward his oldest son's elementary school. After he was sent to

Sandy Hook school himself, he saw things that will stay with

him forever.

With anguished parents searching for their

children, he prepared to receive the wounded, but a paramedic came back

empty-handed,

underscoring the totality of the massacre. Barresi, whose own son

escaped unharmed, later discovered that among the 26 dead

were children who played baseball with his son and had come to his

house for birthday parties.

"For some of us, it's fairly difficult," said Barresi, of the Sandy Hook Volunteer Fire and Rescue Co. "Fortunately most of

us did not go in."

Newtown and environs weathered a fourth day

of funerals Thursday, six days after a 20-year-old gunman killed his

mother at

home, 20 children and six adults at the school and himself for

reasons still unknown. 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.

The gunman's mother, Nancy Lanza, also was laid to rest Thursday, in a private ceremony at an undisclosed location in tiny

Kingston, N.H., where she used to live. About 25 family members attended, the town's police chief said.

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. 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 also participate.

While family, friends and even strangers weep, members of the emergency forces that responded to the shooting, many of them

volunteers, are wrestling with frustration, guilt and anguish as they receive counseling from a state intervention team to

help them deal with the horrors they saw and heard.

Authorities say the victims were shot with a

high-powered, military-style rifle loaded with ammunition designed to

inflict

maximum damage. All the victims had been shot at least twice, the

medical examiner said, and as many as 11 times. Two victims

were pronounced dead at a hospital, while all others died in the

school.

Initially, only police were allowed to enter the building amid concerns about a second shooter. They are credited with helping

to end the rampage by gunman Adam Lanza, who killed himself as officers stormed the building. But some responders struggle

with not having been able to do more, questions over what could have been done differently and a feeling that they do not

deserve praise.

Firefighter Marc Gold, who rushed to offer help even though his company was not called, said he is haunted by the trauma of

the parents and the faces of the police who emerged from the building.

"I saw the faces of the most hardened

paramilitary, SWAT team guys come out, breaking down, saying they've

just never seen

anything like this," said Gold, a member of the Hawleyville

Volunteer Fire Department. "What's really scary to me is I'm really

struggling, and I didn't see the carnage."

After escorting the last group of children from the school to safety, Gold also was positioned outside the school to help

with the injured, but he never had the opportunity.

"Most of my emotions are guilt, guilt because we weren't able to do something, guilt for the accolades I'm getting," said

Gold, a 50-year-old father of three. "It doesn't feel good when people say nice things to me. It feels good for a second,

and then you feel guilty for feeling good."

Joel Faxon, a member of the Newtown Police

Commission, said the trauma experienced by the officers should be

treated no differently

from physical injuries.

"The first Newtown police officers on the

scene at the Sandy Hook Elementary School minutes after the assassin

began his rampage

witnessed unspeakable carnage," said Faxon, adding that the

governor and state lawmakers should change laws if needed to ensure

the officers receive due treatment and benefits. "We owe them at

least this much for facing down such evil."

One aspect of the tragedy that may help these first responders recover is the outpouring of support from around the world,

according to Charles Figley, director of the Traumatology Institute at Tulane University.

"This is an international event. All you

have to do is say 'Sandy Hook first responder' and everyone nods their

head in understanding,"

he said. "They don't have to do it in isolation."

The fact that responders were able to be of

assistance will help ease their burdens, Figley said, but the

involvement of so

many young victims sets Newtown apart from other shootings. The

Connecticut police union, AFSCME Council 15, said it has been

offering counseling assistance to members across the state, and

neighboring towns that sent officers have provided mandatory

counseling for their Newtown responders.

"It would be ludicrous to say this wouldn't

have some kind of permanent effect on anybody who dealt with it," said

George

Epstein, operations director for the Connecticut Critical Incident

Stress Management Team, which deployed immediately after

the shooting to aid the first responders and has been holding

small group counseling sessions.

Barresi said the counseling has been helpful to him because it is led by other first responders who have been through similar

experiences.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder was

visiting Newtown on Thursday to meet with first responders and law

enforcement officials,

a Department of Justice official said Thursday. The official spoke

on the condition of anonymity because the trip hadn't been

publicly announced.

With Newtown enduring a relentless string of children's funerals and nonstop media attention, Gold said it has been difficult

to find the space to process everything, and he appreciated the support he found in the group counseling. He said he will

never forget the events of that day, but he hopes the pain dulls with time.

"My heart is broken for these families beyond anything I can explain to you," he said