The last of the Newtown funerals are occurring today (though some families did not disclose the details of their loved ones’ services), and the end of life industry in a sleepy Connecticut town is still reeling from the shock of Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre.
Each of the Newtown funerals represented a sudden loss, the additional dynamic of a death unexpected and across the board “too soon” — starkly so when considering the 20 first graders killed among the 27 victims. Even the adults were by and large young, some in their twenties and early thirties, and some in mid-life.
Funeral directors, morticians and coroners are accustomed to death, but even these industry workers say the Newtown funerals have been difficult to process despite providing guidance in the deaths of children as part of their day to day work. Pasquale Forino has been a funeral director for nearly 30 years, but he says an experience like the Newtown school shooting “truly shakes your foundation to the core.”
Forino is the funeral director of Neilan Funeral Home in nearby New London. The Huffington Post reports that Forino is also president of the Connecticut’s funeral director’s organization — with which he has been calling upon for supportive resources as the area copes with 27 deaths in the same day.
Of dealing with the Newtown funerals, Forino begins:
“Yes, I’m a mortician. But we’re human beings. When you see a child from a mass shooting, it really hits home.”
The Newtown-area funeral director describes the logistic difficulty that comes alongside the emotional impact of the Sandy Hook victims, explaining some of the elements that such a large number of burials require. Forino said earlier this week:
“In a small town like Newtown, they need a lot of help this week, with everything from counseling families to procuring caskets and hearses and making arrangements for burial … you have to talk to people as individuals. You need to be with them every step of the way, from the moment they walk into the funeral home to the moment the casket is placed and the dirt is shoveled over the grave.”
Forino says his own experiences with loss at the age of 11, when his father died, inspired him to assist families in their time of grief:
“We do what we can do to take care of the families. We’ll deal with our own emotional needs later … The funeral director [back then] befriended me, and helped me deal with the pain. I took a job there shortly after, doing maintenance work, mowing lawns, shoveling snow. I could see from a distance that they were helping people, just like they helped me.”
Josephine Gay, Ana Marquez-Greene and Emilie Parker were laid to rest today in the final three Newtown funerals.