by Ruth Murai
Shock and grief traveled through the nation on Fri., Dec. 14, after twenty children and seven adults were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT. Of the 27 victims, twenty were between the ages of six and seven, and six were educators. The killer’s mother was the first victim, and the final death was of the killer himself.
Adam Lanza began his killing spree by shooting his mother, Nancy Lanza, in their home, then driving her car to Sandy Hook Elementary School. There he killed 20 students in two classrooms and six adults, including several teachers and the school’s principal. Lanza committed suicide at the school as the police arrived.
Parents received an automated voice message to alert them to the shooting, and although they were advised not to come to the school every parent rushed to find their child, fearing the worst, but hoping for the best. The first responders to the scene led the children away from the school, telling them to close their eyes in order to shield them from seeing the carnage inside. From the school, the children were taken to a firehouse a quarter mile away, where the parents were waiting to find their children.
Witnesses reported that Sandy Hook Elementary’s principal Dawn Hochsprung and the school’s psychologist Mary Sherloch rushed out of a meeting they had both been attending as soon as they heard gunfire. Both Hochsprung and Sherloch were killed in an attempt to stop the gunman. Sherloch and Hochsprung’s loved ones hail the two as heroes for their final actions.
Hochsprung and Sherloch were not alone in their heroism on that fateful Friday. First-grade teacher Victoria Soto was found dead in her classroom after giving her own life to save her students. According to students in Soto’s class, she put all the children in closets and cupboards, hoping to shield them from gunfire; she had called “her kids” rather than students, in an ultimate show of affection for her pupils and her profession.
The other adult victims of the shooting were Lauren Rosseau, Rachel Davino, and Anne Marie Murphy, each a teacher at Sandy Hook Elementary. Lauren was having the “best year of her life” according to family members- finally becoming a full-time teacher after years of substituting. Rachel Davino was a former therapist known for her humorous antics in the classroom and her devotion to help students learn at any cost. Anne Marie Murphy was a special education teacher who will be remembered for her last moments in which she shielded students from gunfire with her own body. She was found huddled protectively over the bodies of students who also died at the hands of the gunmen.
Even more angering than the deaths of educators and mentors were the murders of 20 students between the ages of six and seven. Each with a distinct personality and spirit, all 20 students are mourned by shocked family members, friends, and neighbors. While some parents have declined to speak about their children’s deaths, the father of Emilie Parker, a victim of the shooting, chose to speak out following the shooting. Robbie Parker spoke kind words about his daughter and thanked the community for support in a speech he made just hours after he learned of his daughter’s death.
On the weekend following the shooting, many paid tribute to the victims through gestures both large and small. SNL chose to open its notorious Holiday Show with a bittersweet and touching performance of “Silent Night” from the New York Children’s Choir in honor of the victims. New York Giant’s player Victor Cruz memorialized one of the victims, 6 year old Jack Pinto, on his game day uniform by writing “Jack Pinto, My hero” on a cleat and “Jack Pinto, This one is 4 U!” on his glove. Pinto was an enormous fan of Cruz. In Newtown, citizens paid tribute to the victims through candlelight vigils and services. One anonymous donor gave 26 Christmas trees to honor the victims as volunteers decorated them. These tributes were not isolated to the United States. On Copacabana beach in Rio de Janerio, Brazil, family members of victims of violent crimes set up 26 crosses to honor the victims. In Russia, teddy bears and flowers were left outside the U.S Embassy, where the flag flew at half mast.
President Obama also paid tribute to the victims, first on Friday evening and then again on Sunday night after spending the day visiting with the families of victims and first responders. Speaking at a vigil Sunday night, the President not only honored the victims but also made a political statement, saying “These tragedies must end, and to end them, we must change. We will be told that the causes of such violence are complex, and it is true. No single law, no set of laws can eliminate evil from the world or prevent every senseless act of violence in our society. But that can’t be an excuse for inaction. Surely we can do better than this.”
While students, teachers, families, and neighbors in Newton Conn. grieve for the lost educators, role models, students, and innocent souls; they can seek comfort in knowing that the nation–and the world stand behind them, offering comfort and prayer in the hopes that this terrible wound can heal.
(Sources: NBC, People, The Daily Mail, Huffington Post, CNN)
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