(CNN) — It was special, just like Emilie Parker.
That’s how Jill Cottle Garrett described Saturday’s funeral for her 6-year-old niece, one of 20 children and six adults killed at a Newtown, Connecticut, school.
The LDS Rock Cliff Stake Center church in Ogden, Utah, was filled with glitter and pink flowers — Emilie’s favorite color — “fancy” and effervescent like the little girl herself.
“Everything was special to Emilie,” her aunt told reporters outside the church. “Emilie was an example to not only her little sisters but to her family, to all her little friends. And now she’s an example to the world about purity … tragedy and forgiveness.”
Emilie had been practicing for a Christmas show, which would have been Sunday. She never got the chance to perform, but the songs — “Angels We Have Heard on High” and “Silent Night” — were played during her funeral. Her two little sisters sang along, smiled, danced, even took flowers off Emilie’s casket and threw them into the air.
“They were celebrating Emilie and her life today,” Garrett said.
The girl was one of three Sandy Hook Elementary School students laid to rest Saturday, the last of the mass shooting victims to be buried.
One was Josephine Gay, who had turned 7 just days before Adam Lanza forced himself into her school and began firing.
A photo of the happy child, wearing a green hat and with glasses on the end of her nose, has been republished widely. On a Facebook memorial page, people remembered Josephine as “a beautiful little angel.”
Her funeral took place on a blustery day in Newtown, as strong winds whipped the hairs of emotional mourners outside Saint Rose of Lima Roman Catholic Church.
Some who did not go inside the church instead left tributes at a makeshift memorial steps away, which was full of messages and flowers.
Services also were scheduled Saturday for 6-year-old Ana Marquez-Greene, who is remembered for a singing voice bigger than her size. A representative for her father, the jazz musician Jimmy Greene, described the girl as “beautiful and vibrant.”
The horrendous nature of the December 14 shooting — defenseless children and teachers being gunned down — has led Americans to conclude that something must be done.
But what? That debate about the steps needed to protect America’s children is setting up to be an intense fight between those calling for more restrictive gun laws and those who want guns for protection.
Most of the voices in the immediate aftermath of the shooting favored more stringent gun control measures.
A CNN/ORC poll taken after the shooting shows that a slight majority of Americans favor restrictions on guns. Conservative Democrats and even some Republicans who have supported gun rights have said they are open to discussing gun control.
On Friday, the National Rifle Association weighed in, making it clear the organization would not budge an inch.
Instead, Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre blamed video games and the media, and said the gun rights group will fund a team to devise a program that would put armed guards at all schools. “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” he said.
The NRA’s position sets the stage for a contentious battle between one of the most powerful lobbying groups in Washington and the Obama administration, which has promised quick action on “real reforms” to gun laws.
CNN iReporter Jason Asselin applauded the NRA’s stance, even proposing that U.S. troops returning from war zones serve as armed guards. “Right now, our schools remain unprotected,” he said. “Action is needed. Our children deserve to be protected.”
But others panned the NRA’s position.
Democratic Senator-elect Chris Murphy, whose district includes Newtown, called LaPierre’s words “the most revolting, tone deaf statement I’ve ever seen.” New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, an independent, blasted them as “a shameful evasion of the crisis facing the country.” And former Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele said he found the remarks “very haunting and very disturbing.”
Rick Huffman, another CNN iReporter and a retired police officer, cut up his NRA membership card in the wake of the mass shooting, which he said changed his views on gun control.
“There’s got to be a limit to what they let citizens have at their disposal,” the Michigan resident said.
Sunday will mark a new chapter in this horrific saga, as the first full day when U.S. and Connecticut flags will be at full-staff since the violence, as directed by Gov. Dannel Malloy.
After that, the quest to understand what happened at Sandy Hook Elementary, and why, as well as how to prevent more such carnage in the future, will continue.