NEWTOWN, CONN. — Ten minutes. That was how long it took for a man to shoot his way into an elementary school in an upscale Connecticut town and kill 20 children and six adults before shooting himself as police arrived. Adam Lanza, 20, shot the 12 girls and eight boys, aged 6 and 7, multiple times with a high-powered Bushmaster AR-15 assault rifle and killed himself with a Glock semi-automatic pistol.
He was carrying hundreds of rounds of ammunition and had a Sig Sauer semi-automatic pistol that was still in its holster. A fourth gun was found in the black Honda which he drove to the school.
Before Lanza went on his murderous rampage, he shot his mother four times in the head in bed and drove to the Sandy Hook Elementary School, arriving just before 9:30 a.m., after students had recited the Pledge of Allegiance and the doors were locked.
By the time police arrived, the shooting was over and officers helped teachers escort the little survivors away from the scene before starting to gather evidence that was “too difficult to discuss. I’m not going to lie to you,” according to J. Paul Vance, a lieutenant with the Connecticut State Police.
Two persons who were also shot survived but police have declined to release their names.Those who did not survive included Ana Marquez-Greene, 6, whose family is originally from Puerto Rico. She and her mother, Nelba Marquez-Greene, lived three years in Canada, where the mother was a therapist at the University of Winnipeg. Her father, Jimmy Greene, taught music at the University of Manitoba. Marquez-Greene relocated to Sandy Hook two months ago. Ana’s brother, Isaiah, also attended Sandy Hook but was not shot.
Monday, some 100 people holding candles braved sub-zero temperatures in Winnipeg for a vigil to remember Ana. A second vigil was held Tuesday night at the University of Manitoba.
In Newtown, vigils and funeral services were being held this week for the victims of the massacre, with religious leaders comforting those who grieved.
A team of golden retrievers, called comfort dogs, arrived over the weekend to help children cope with the loss of friends and the trauma surrounding the tragedy. The dogs were at two services early in the week and were near the site of a memorial service Sunday night where President Barack Obama and a cross-section of religious leaders made moving remarks.
But there was courage amidst the tragedy. Officials said school principal Dawn Hochsprung, 47, died when she tried to stop the shooter. Teacher’s aide Anne Marie Murphy, 52, was killed as she tried to protect some children. So too Mary Sherlach, 56, a school psychologist, who was nearing retirement.
In South Florida, the three black members of Congress were among those who reacted with horror at the shootings.“There are no words to describe this heartbreaking tragedy,” said U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson. She added, “As a former school teacher and school principal, I grieve not only for the parents but also for the school staff who bear the brunt of the responsibility of caring for our nation’s children.”
Outgoing U.S. Rep. Allen West said in his statement, “There are no words to express the unimaginable sorrow our nation feels today for the families of those who lost their children and loved ones. It is only through faith and prayer that we can ever make sense of the senseless… As a nation we grieve for the loss of so many lives and the loss of so much innocence.”
U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings saw the tragedy as a call to action against gun violence, saying “Those of us in Congress are at odds about money, while all around us unnecessary guns are proliferating (in) our nation and helping our society to crumble. We can’t do everything to stop gun violence but we can and must do something — and we must do it now.”
His plan of action would protect gun ownership as a constitutional right but would limit assault weapons to the military and the police; enhancing the “Cops in School Program” and providing security officers for every public school; making conflict resolution part of school curriculum; requiring background checks where guns are sold and gun safety training for prospective purchasers.
As grieving families began laying their children to rest starting Monday, politicians began to feel the heat of a national firestorm over gun violence. Obama said he would use all the power of his office to bring about change. Some key Republicans in Congress, including a few staunch supporters of the position of the National Rifle
Association (NRA) that there be no gun control, began signaling a willingness to discuss the subject. The NRA broke its silence Tuesday to say it was “shocked, saddened and heartbroken” over the massacre and said it “is prepared to offer meaningful contributions to help make sure this never happens again.”
As the debate picks up steam, as happens whenever there is such tragedy, this time the backdrop is the picturesque Connecticut town in grief.Six-year-old Jennifer Waters attended Mass on Sunday at Saint Rose of Lima Roman Catholic Church with a lot of questions.
“The little children, are they with the angels?” she asked her mother as she fiddled with a small plastic Sonic the Hedgehog figurine on a pew near the back of the church. “Are they going to live with the angels?”After Mass, her parents Joan and Jennifer Waters stopped by a makeshift memorial of votive candles, flowers and stuffed animals to pray the “Our Father.”
“Can we get these?” Jennifer asked her mother.“No, those are for the little children,” her mother replied.“Who died?” her daughter asked.“Yes,” said her mother, wiping away a tear.
This report was compiled from Associated Press and other news dispatches.