Conn. city reacts to elementary school massacre

People gathered at St. Rose of Lima Roman Catholic Church in Newtown, Conn. late Friday evening to mourn the tragedy. A young girl adds her candle to the memorial.
People gathered at St. Rose of Lima Roman Catholic Church in Newtown, Conn. late Friday evening to mourn the tragedy. A young girl adds her candle to the memorial. Photo by Diana Li.

NEWTOWN, Conn. — Twenty-seven people, including 20 children, were killed in a shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn. Friday morning.

Shortly after 9:30 a.m., a young man entered Sandy Hook Elementary School armed with two handguns and began shooting. Twenty-seven people are reported to have been killed in two classrooms at the school, including 20 children, 6 adults and the gunman. The shooter also killed his mother in their home before entering the elementary school, bringing the total number of victims to 28, according to the AP.

“We will leave no stone unturned as we’re working through every facet of this investigation,” State Police Lt. Paul Vance said at a press conference at Treadwell Park shortly after 5 p.m. Friday evening. “Whether it’s the shooter, or any of the victims, we will get everything.”

The gunman has been identified as 20-year-old Adam Lanza. Vance said that he could not confirm the identity of the shooter and added that local law enforcement would identify him at “an appropriate time.” Police have named no motive for the shooting, though the AP reported that the shooter suffered from a personality disorder.

Following the shooting, police escorted children out of the school in one line with their eyes closed, holding each other’s shoulders. They were brought to a staging area, where parents were reunited with children, the AP reported. Vance said at the press conference that law enforcement has been in constant contact with all of the parents since the shooting.

The AP also reported that according to at least one parent, Lanza’s mother, Nancy Lanza, was a substitute at the elementary school.

Sean Elliott, a senior at Newtown High School, went to Sandy Hook Elementary School and personally knew a victim of the shooting. He said that families impacted by the shooting who he has contacted do not know much more than what is on the news because authorities are not releasing much information.

“It’s kind of hard for me to understand. I live on a street where all the kids go to Sandy Hook,” Elliott said. “One of the children [who passed away] I used to babysit; they’re really good family friends.”

Mitchell Savoca, a 13-year-old student at Sandy Brook Middle School, said that each classroom in his school went on lockdown for two hours and that the principal had announced there had been a shooting.

Robert Place, 65, a Newtown resident, said that a local senior center where his wife works was evacuated early on so it could potentially be used as a shelter.

“This is gut-wrenching. I don’t know what to say,” Place said. “It’s surreal — not much of anything ever happens here. This is backcountry land.”

A memorial service took place Friday evening at St. Rose Church in Newtown, where the small church overflowed with mourners, and those who could not fit inside peeked through windows. Cars parked on the grass because the church’s parking lot was full.

Ray Horvath, an employee of Education Connection, a regional educational service center in western Connecticut, was among those at the service.

“This makes no sense at all. Kill the rest of us – the adults, I don’t give a damn. Throw a bullet in me. But why hit the kids?” said Horvath, who was at the school early Friday morning and left a few minutes before the shooting began. “We probably walked by this idiot.”

Michael Schlesinger, a freshman at Newtown High School, said he is afraid to go back to school in light of the tragedy.

“I don’t want to go back to school because if [a shooting] could happen to an elementary school, it’s going to happen to a high school,” Schlesinger said while trembling at the service. “You hear about shootings like Columbine, but even that was in a high school. This guy – he walked into an elementary school and it was little kids.”

At 3:15 Friday afternoon, President Barack Obama addressed the nation from the White House, fighting to hold back tears.

“We’ve endured too many of these tragedies in the past few years, and each time I hear the news, I react not as a president but as everybody else would, as a parent,” Obama said. “And that is especially true today. I know there’s not a parent in America who doesn’t feel the same overwhelming grief that I do.”

A candlelight vigil will be held in New Haven surrounding the flagpole on the Green today at 6:00 p.m.

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