IT SHOULD have been the first day of their last week of school before the Christmas holidays, but instead young Noah Pozner and Jack Pinto were buried on a cold and drizzling Monday in Newtown.
Jack loved all sports but his favourite was football, and his favourite player the New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz. Cruz called the Pintos on Sunday to offer his condolences and spoke to Jack's brother.
Earlier that day he had taken to the field wearing cleats on which he had inscribed, ''Jack Pinto, My Hero'' and ''RIP Jack Pinto''.
Hundreds crammed into the old wooden building that houses Honan Funeral Home, which will hold a funeral each day for the next 11 days. As mourners filed in, the media waited quietly on the far side of the road, in keeping with the family's request for privacy.
In Fairfield, an hour's drive away, family and friends gathered for the funeral of the youngest victim of the massacre that claimed 26 at Sandy Hook Elementary, Noah Pozner. He had turned six just a few weeks ago.
Mourners, including Connecticut governor Dan Malloy, gathered in a funeral home on a street that supporters had lined with white balloons tied with white ribbons.
''Our hearts are with you Noah,'' read a green sign pinned to a tree.
''The family appreciated it very much,'' said Rabbi Yakou Barros, a visiting clergyman, reported the Washington Post. ''You can see it in their faces.''
Noah was described by his uncle as gentle and curious, the sort of boy who loved to read and explore how things worked mechanically.
Noah's twin sister Arielle - who he called his best friend - had survived Friday's attack, hiding with her classmates in a nearby room throughout the 10-minute ordeal.
Outside the funeral home dozens of police officers gathered in the street as police dogs screened the bags and even the bouquets carried by mourners.
''To see such a small casket left me literally speechless,'' said Lieutenant James Perez of the Fairfield police.
As the people of Newtown buried their dead, in Washington the battle lines were drawn over what may turn out to be the first serious debate over gun control since the early 1990s.
Support for a ban on military-style rifles was voiced by a life member of the National Rifle Association, the West Virginian pro-gun Democratic senator Joe Manchin.
''It's time to move beyond rhetoric. We need to sit down and have a commonsense discussion and move in a reasonable way,'' he said.
Senator Manchin said he had grown up in a hunting culture and he did not see the need for any hunter to carry an assault rifle or a high-volume magazine.
''I believe this is a time for all of us to sit down and move in a responsible manner. And I think [the National Rifle Association] will.''
Until now, Senator Manchin has held an ''A'' rating from the NRA, which rates all US politicians on their attitude to guns.
Another pro-gun Democrat, Senator Mark Warner of Virginia, tweeted that Friday's shooting was a ''game changer''. He had also previously received an ''A'' rating from the NRA.
Senate majority leader Harry Reid, who has never previously addressed gun control and had a ''B'' rating, said: ''We need to accept the reality that we're not doing enough to protect our citizens.
''In the coming days and weeks, we'll engage in a meaningful conversation and thoughtful debate about how to change laws and culture that allow this violence to continue to grow.''
His comments echo the words of US President Barack Obama, who said at a memorial service in Newtown on Sunday that he would use all the power of his office to pursue reform.
Monday's Senate session, the first since the attack, began with a pointed prayer offered by the Senate chaplain, Barry Black, a retired Rear Admiral, who said: ''Make our lawmakers willing to act promptly, remembering that time is fleeting.''
Though gun control advocates often push for legislative reform in the wake of America's mass killings, there is a sense that on this occasion their calls will be harder for sympathetic but fearful politicians to ignore.
A CBS News poll conducted after the killings in Newtown and published on Monday found that support for increased gun control was at its highest level in a decade - 57 per cent.
As is its standard practice after mass shootings, the NRA has remained silent. with AP