newtown ct school shooting

Sandy Hook Elementary School Principal and Psychologist Remembered

One dressed up in goofy costumes to make her students smile.

Another was a psychologist — preparing to retire — who had seen generations of students through their parents’ divorces and difficult days.

Dawn Hochsprung, the principal of Sandy Hook Elementary School, and Mary Sherlach, a school psychologist, were among the six adults killed at the school in the mass shooting on Friday, educators gunned down alongside the children they cared for as if they were their own.

Authorities did not release an official list of the victims’ names, but the other four were believed to be school staff members.

The unimaginable loss of 20 children consumed much of the nation on Friday. But in Newtown, Conn., a tight-knit community of about 25,000 bonded by its schools, a profound, personal ache was felt also for the school staff members who were killed.

Ms. Sherlach, 56, was remembered for her many years of helping students cope with problems that they were unprepared to handle.

And Ms. Hochsprung, 47, was mourned as a creative and dedicated educator who had quickly won over children and adults alike.

“I’m not surprised she gave her life in this fashion, trying to protect her students,” said Gerald Stomski, the first selectman of Woodbury, Conn., who knew Ms. Hochsprung.

Grief-stricken Sandy Hook parents spoke of the elementary school as an extension of their own homes, a haven of support for children and their families.

That environment was fostered by Ms. Hochsprung, who began her job there in 2010 and had used the time since then to tamp down any nervousness children felt approaching the proverbial “principal’s office.” Before taking the job at Sandy Hook, she had worked at other schools in Connecticut.

“She was not the kind of principal I remembered as a kid,” said Diane Licata, the mother of a first grader and a second grader at the school. “She really reached out to the students and made them feel comfortable with her. She definitely took that extra step.”

Ms. Hochsprung organized festive days she called Wacky Wednesdays, when students were encouraged to wear goofy clothes that did not match. She had students dress up as their favorite storybook characters, and she was known for dressing up herself. Sometimes, she brought her poodle to school.

She was no distant authority figure. Ms. Licata said her young children, who often skimped on details of their days, regularly came home with stories of what Ms. Hochsprung had done that day.

But for all the levity, Ms. Hochsprung also took education very seriously. She was the one who distributed long articles to colleagues about policy debates in Washington and highlighted news from the latest speech by Arne Duncan, the secretary of education.

She was also unusually tech savvy. She kept an active Twitter feed documenting the school — “In a fourth grade classroom right now,” she wrote in a recent message. She said she was impressed “by the caliber of instruction and by students’ deep thinking!”

Ms. Hochsprung believed that many students engaged better with electronic screens than with blackboards, and she made sure her teachers had iPads in the classroom. Then, she organized “Appy Hour” sessions to discuss the most useful teaching apps.

Lillian Bittman, former chairwoman of the Newtown Board of Education, helped choose Ms. Hochsprung for the position. She recalled an eager applicant, filled with ideas and focused on “making sure we were turning out critical thinkers, making sure the children weren’t just turning out rote learning.”

Ms. Hochsprung and her husband had planned to retire someday to the Adirondacks, where they owned a home, a former neighbor, Bill LaCroix, said.

If Ms. Hochsprung was a relatively new face in the school, Ms. Sherlach was a fixture, a reliable ally for generations of children in need of counsel.

“When somebody had a personal tragedy in their lives that affected their children, then Mary would be a part of trying to help them come up with a solution for that child,” said Ms. Bittman, whose three children graduated from Sandy Hook Elementary.

Ms. Sherlach lived in Trumbull, Conn., with her husband, William, a financial adviser with Morgan Stanley in Fairfield. The couple have two grown daughters, a high school choral teacher who lives in New Jersey and a chemistry doctoral student at Georgetown University, according to a biography of her husband posted on his company’s Web site.

As night fell on Friday, mourners streamed in and out of Ms. Sherlach’s home.

John Button, 57, a friend of Ms. Sherlach’s husband, said Ms. Sherlach was getting ready to retire.

“It was going to be her last year — that’s what she said,” he said. “She loved her job,” he added. “She’s done this for her whole career.”

He recalled vacationing in the Finger Lakes region of New York with the couple, who have a house there. He was supposed to play golf on Saturday morning with Mr. Sherlach.

“It’s ironic,” Mr. Button said. “At a time when kids need help, it was the school psychologist that was sacrificed.”

[The New York Times]

Connetticut school shooting

Gunman from NEW JERSEY came up to the Elementary School to confront the principal.
TWENTY SIX DEAD have been reported.  
14 are reported to be children.
Including the gunman. 18 to 20 years old, young man
They have breached the home of the family members of the gunman to make sure the home isn’t booby trapped.

They mentioned Aurora.

Holy … shit . My heart

huffingtonpost.com
The Untold Story Of President Obama After Sandy Hook

Excerpted from THE PRESIDENTS DEVOTIONAL: The Daily Readings That Inspired President Obama, by Joshua DuBois by arrangement with HarperOne, an imprint of HarperCollins. Copyright © Joshua DuBois 2013.

The White House is not supposed to be a place for brokenness. Sheer, shattered, brokenness. But that’s what we experienced on the weekend of December 14, 2012.

I was sitting at my desk around midday on Friday the 14th when I saw the images flash on CNN: A school. A gunman. Children fleeing, crying.

It’s sad that we’ve grown so accustomed to these types of scenes that my first thought was I hope there are no deaths, just injuries. I thought, Maybe it’s your run-of-the-mill scare.

And then the news from Sandy Hook Elementary School, a small school in the tiny hamlet of Newtown, Connecticut, began pouring in. The public details were horrific enough: Twenty children murdered. Six staff. Parents searching a gymnasium for signs of their kids.

But the private facts we received in the White House from the FBI were even worse.
How the gunman treated the children like criminals, lining them up to shoot them down. How so many bullets penetrated them that many were left unrecognizable. How the killer went from one classroom to another and would have gone farther if his rifle would’ve let him.

That news began a weekend of prayer and numbness, which I awoke from on Saturday only to receive the word that the president would like me to accompany him to Newtown. He wanted to meet with the families of the victims and then offer words of comfort to the country at an interfaith memorial service.

I left early to help the advance team—the hardworking folks who handle logistics for every event—set things up, and I arrived at the local high school where the meetings and memorial service would take place. We prepared seven or eight classrooms for the families of the slain children and teachers, two or three families to a classroom, placing water and tissues and snacks in each one. Honestly, we didn’t know how to prepare; it was the best we could think of.

The families came in and gathered together, room by room. Many struggled to offer a weak smile when we whispered, “The president will be here soon.” A few were visibly angry—so understandable that it barely needs to be said—and were looking for someone, anyone, to blame. Mostly they sat in silence.

I went downstairs to greet President Obama when he arrived, and I provided an overview of the situation. “Two families per classroom … The first is … and their child was … The second is … and their child was … We’ll tell you the rest as you go.”

The president took a deep breath and steeled himself, and went into the first classroom. And what happened next I’ll never forget.

Person after person received an engulfing hug from our commander in chief. He’d say, “Tell me about your son… . Tell me about your daughter,” and then hold pictures of the lost beloved as their parents described favorite foods, television shows, and the sound of their laughter. For the younger siblings of those who had passed away—many of them two, three, or four years old, too young to understand it all—the president would grab them and toss them, laughing, up into the air, and then hand them a box of White House M&M’s, which were always kept close at hand. In each room, I saw his eyes water, but he did not break.

And then the entire scene would repeat—for hours. Over and over and over again, through well over a hundred relatives of the fallen, each one equally broken, wrecked by the loss. After each classroom, we would go back into those fluorescent hallways and walk through the names of the coming families, and then the president would dive back in, like a soldier returning to a tour of duty in a worthy but wearing war. We spent what felt like a lifetime in those classrooms, and every single person received the same tender treatment. The same hugs. The same looks, directly in their eyes. The same sincere offer of support and prayer.

The staff did the preparation work, but the comfort and healing were all on President Obama. I remember worrying about the toll it was taking on him. And of course, even a president’s comfort was woefully inadequate for these families in the face of this particularly unspeakable loss. But it became some small measure of love, on a weekend when evil reigned.

And the funny thing is—President Obama has never spoken about these meetings. Yes, he addressed the shooting in Newtown and gun violence in general in a subsequent speech, but he did not speak of those private gatherings. In fact, he was nearly silent on Air Force One as we rode back to Washington, and has said very little about his time with these families since. It must have been one of the defining moments of his presidency, quiet hours in solemn classrooms, extending as much healing as was in his power to extend. But he kept it to himself—never seeking to teach a lesson based on those mournful conversations, or opening them up to public view.

Jesus teaches us that some things—the holiest things, the most painful and important and cherished things—we are to do in secret. Not for public consumption and display, but as acts of service to others, and worship to God. For then, “your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you,” perhaps not now, but certainly in eternity. We learned many lessons in Newtown that day; this is one I’ve kept closely at heart.

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Devotional For December 14
Darkness’s Hour

Then Jesus said to the chief priests, captains of the temple, and the elders who had come to Him, “Have you come out, as against a robber, with swords and clubs? When I was with you daily in the temple, you did not try to seize Me. But this is your hour, and the power of darkness.”
—Luke 22:52–53 (nkjv)

“But this is your hour, and the power of darkness.” Darkness will, in fact, have its hour. We saw hours of darkness in Auschwitz and Treblinka, Newtown and antebellum Mississippi. No one less than Christ affirmed that there are moments when evil moves mightily in the world. The questions become: Do we have confidence in the coming light? Will the darkness overwhelm us, which is always its goal, or will we hold on to the promise of the morning?

Jesus held on to that promise, and in his resurrection and ascension was crowned victorious, in a mantle of light. His confidence is an indicator of how we should meet our own times of darkness, those moments when evil temporarily seems to reign.

Dear God, in the nighttime, remind me of the day. In the darkness, remind me of your light. I have confidence in the coming morning, and until then I will stand strong. Amen.

The Names of The Sandy Hook School Shooting Victims

The children: Charlotte Bacon, 6, Daniel Barden, 7, Olivia Engel, 6, Josephine Gay, 7, Ana M. Marquez-Greene, 6, Dylan Hockley, 6, Madeleine F. Hsu, 6, Catherine V. Hubbard, 6, Chase Kowalski, 7, Jesse Lewis, 6, James Mattioli, 6, Grace McDonnell, 7, Emilie Parker, 6, Jack Pinto, 6, Noah Pozner, 6, Caroline Previdi, 6, Jessica Rekos, 6, Avielle Richman, 6, Benjamin Wheeler, 6, Allison N. Wyatt, 6.

The staff: Rachel Davino, 29, Dawn Hochsprung, 47, Anne Marie Murphy, 52, Lauren Rousseau, 30, Mary Sherlach, 56, Victoria Soto, 27.

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This afternoon, I spoke with Governor Malloy and FBI Director Mueller. I offered Governor Malloy my condolences on behalf of the nation and made it clear he will have every single resource that he needs to investigate this heinous crime, care for the victims, counsel their families.

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

The majority of those who died today were children – beautiful, little kids between the ages of 5 and 10 years old. They had their entire lives ahead of them – birthdays, graduations, weddings, kids of their own. Among the fallen were also teachers, men and women who devoted their lives to helping our children fulfill their dreams.

So our hearts are broken today for the parents and grandparents, sisters and brothers of these little children, and for the families of the adults who were lost.

Our hearts are broken for the parents of the survivors, as well, for as blessed as they are to have their children home tonight, they know that their children’s innocence has been torn away from them too early and there are no words that will ease their pain.

As a country, we have been through this too many times. Whether it is an elementary school in Newtown, or a shopping mall in Oregon, or a temple in Wisconsin, or a movie theater in Aurora, or a street corner in Chicago, these neighborhoods are our neighborhoods and these children are our children. And we’re going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics.

This evening, Michelle and I will do what I know every parent in America will do, which is hug our children a little tighter, and we’ll tell them that we love them, and we’ll remind each other how deeply we love one another. But there are families in Connecticut who cannot do that tonight, and they need all of us right now. In the hard days to come, that community needs us to be at our best as Americans, and I will do everything in my power as president to help, because while nothing can fill the space of a lost child or loved one, all of us can extend a hand to those in need, to remind them that we are there for them, that we are praying for them, that the love they felt for those they lost endures not just in their memories, but also in ours.

May God bless the memory of the victims and, in the words of Scripture, heal the brokenhearted and bind up their wounds.

—  President Obama’s remarks about the school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., on Dec. 14, 2012.
Watch on tpf.rocks

Transcript of President Obama’s remarks at tonight’s prayer vigil for the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting victims at the Newtown High School in Newtown, CT.

Thank you.

Thank you, Governor. To all the families, first responders, to the community of Newtown, clergy, guests, scripture tells us, “Do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, inwardly, we are being renewed day by day.

“For light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all, so we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

“For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven not built by human hands.”

We gather here in memory of 20 beautiful children and six remarkable adults. They lost their lives in a school that could have been any school in a quiet town full of good and decent people that could be any town in America.

Here in Newtown, I come to offer the love and prayers of a nation. I am very mindful that mere words cannot match the depths of your sorrow, nor can they heal your wounded hearts.

I can only hope it helps for you to know that you’re not alone in your grief, that our world, too, has been torn apart, that all across this land of ours, we have wept with you. We’ve pulled our children tight.

And you must know that whatever measure of comfort we can provide, we will provide. Whatever portion of sadness that we can share with you to ease this heavy load, we will gladly bear it. Newtown, you are not alone.

As these difficult days have unfolded, you’ve also inspired us with stories of strength and resolve and sacrifice. We know that when danger arrived in the halls of Sandy Hook Elementary, the school’s staff did not flinch. They did not hesitate.

Dawn Hocksprung and Mary Sherlach, Vicki Soto, Lauren Russeau, Rachel Davino and Anne Marie Murphy, they responded as we all hope we might respond in such terrifying circumstances, with courage and with love, giving their lives to protect the children in their care.

We know that there were other teachers who barricaded themselves inside classrooms and kept steady through it all and reassured their students by saying, “Wait for the good guys, they are coming. Show me your smile.”

And we know that good guys came, the first responders who raced to the scene helping to guide those in harm’s way to safety and comfort those in need, holding at bay their own shock and their own trauma, because they had a job to do and others needed them more.

And then there were the scenes of the schoolchildren helping one another, holding each other, dutifully following instructions in the way that young children sometimes do, one child even trying to encourage a grownup by saying, “I know karate, so it’s OK; I’ll lead the way out.”

As a community, you’ve inspired us, Newtown. In the face of indescribable violence, in the face of unconscionable evil, you’ve looked out for each other. You’ve cared for one another. And you’ve loved one another. This is how Newtown will be remembered, and with time and God’s grace, that love will see you through.

But we as a nation, we are left with some hard questions. You know, someone once described the joy and anxiety of parenthood as the equivalent of having your heart outside of your body all the time, walking around.

With their very first cry, this most precious, vital part of ourselves, our child, is suddenly exposed to the world, to possible mishap or malice, and every parent knows there’s nothing we will not do to shield our children from harm. And yet we also know that with that child’s very first step and each step after that, they are separating from us, that we won’t – that we can’t always be there for them.

They will suffer sickness and setbacks and broken hearts and disappointments, and we learn that our most important job is to give them what they need to become self-reliant and capable and resilient, ready to face the world without fear. And we know we can’t do this by ourselves.

It comes as a shock at a certain point where you realize no matter how much you love these kids, you can’t do it by yourself, that this job of keeping our children safe and teaching them well is something we can only do together, with the help of friends and neighbors, the help of a community and the help of a nation.

And in that way we come to realize that we bear responsibility for every child, because we’re counting on everybody else to help look after ours, that we’re all parents, that they are all our children.

This is our first task, caring for our children. It’s our first job. If we don’t get that right, we don’t get anything right. That’s how, as a society, we will be judged.

And by that measure, can we truly say, as a nation, that we’re meeting our obligations?

Can we honestly say that we’re doing enough to keep our children, all of them, safe from harm?

Can we claim, as a nation, that we’re all together there, letting them know they are loved and teaching them to love in return?

Can we say that we’re truly doing enough to give all the children of this country the chance they deserve to live out their lives in happiness and with purpose?

I’ve been reflecting on this the last few days, and if we’re honest with ourselves, the answer’s no. We’re not doing enough. And we will have to change. Since I’ve been president, this is the fourth time we have come together to comfort a grieving community torn apart by mass shootings, fourth time we’ve hugged survivors, the fourth time we’ve consoled the families of victims.

And in between, there have been an endless series of deadly shootings across the country, almost daily reports of victims, many of them children, in small towns and in big cities all across America, victims whose – much of the time their only fault was being at the wrong place at the wrong time.

We can’t tolerate this anymore. These tragedies must end. And to end them, we must change.

We will be told that the causes of such violence are complex, and that 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.

If there’s even one step we can take to save another child or another parent or another town from the grief that’s visited Tucson and Aurora and Oak Creek and Newtown and communities from Columbine to Blacksburg before that, then surely we have an obligation to try.

In the coming weeks, I’ll use whatever power this office holds to engage my fellow citizens, from law enforcement, to mental health professionals, to parents and educators, in an effort aimed at preventing more tragedies like this, because what choice do we have? We can’t accept events like this as routine.

Are we really prepared to say that we’re powerless in the face of such carnage, that the politics are too hard?

Are we prepared to say that such violence visited on our children year after year after year is somehow the price of our freedom?

You know, all the world’s religions, so many of them represented here today, start with a simple question.

Why are we here? What gives our life meaning? What gives our acts purpose?

We know our time on this Earth is fleeting. We know that we will each have our share of pleasure and pain, that even after we chase after some earthly goal, whether it’s wealth or power or fame or just simple comfort, we will, in some fashion, fall short of what we had hoped. We know that, no matter how good our intentions, we’ll all stumble sometimes in some way.

We’ll make mistakes, we’ll experience hardships and even when we’re trying to do the right thing, we know that much of our time will be spent groping through the darkness, so often unable to discern God’s heavenly plans.

There’s only one thing we can be sure of, and that is the love that we have for our children, for our families, for each other. The warmth of a small child’s embrace, that is true.

The memories we have of them, the joy that they bring, the wonder we see through their eyes, that fierce and boundless love we feel for them, a love that takes us out of ourselves and binds us to something larger, we know that’s what matters.

We know we’re always doing right when we’re taking care of them, when we’re teaching them well, when we’re showing acts of kindness. We don’t go wrong when we do that.

That’s what we can be sure of, and that’s what you, the people of Newtown, have reminded us. That’s how you’ve inspired us. You remind us what matters. And that’s what should drive us forward in everything we do for as long as God sees fit to keep us on this Earth.

“Let the little children come to me,” Jesus said, “and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.”

Charlotte, Daniel, Olivia, Josephine, Ana, Dylan, Madeline, Catherine, Chase, Jesse, James, Grace, Emilie, Jack, Noah, Caroline, Jessica, Benjamin, Avielle, Allison, God has called them all home.

For those of us who remain, let us find the strength to carry on and make our country worthy of their memory. May God bless and keep those we’ve lost in His heavenly place. May He grace those we still have with His holy comfort, and may He bless and watch over this community and the United States of America.

abcnews.go.com
RIP Sandy Hook Elementary School Shooting Victims

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To date, this is one of the most heartbreaking posts I have ever had to write.My thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of the victims.

There were 26 victims in total. The 6 adults were all women, including the school principal, school psychologist and some of the teachers who taught at Sandy Hook Elementary School. 20 victims were children, with all of them being 6 or 7 years of age. 12 of the children were girls, 8 of the children were boys.

The 26 victims are:

Charlotte Bacon, 6

Daniel Barden, 7

Rachel Davino, 29

Olivia Engel, 6

Josephine Gay, 7

Ana Marquez-Greene, 6

Dylan Hockley, 6

Dawn Hocksprung, 47

Madeline Hsu, 6

Catherine Hubbard, 6

Chase Kowalski, 7

Jesse Lewis, 6

James Mattioli, 6

Grace McDonnell, 7

Anne Marie Murphy, 52

Emilie Parker, 6

Jack Pinto, 6

Noah Pozner, 6

Caroline Previdi, 6

Jessica Rekos, 6

Avielle Richman, 6

Lauren Russeau, 30

Mary Sherlach, 56

Victoria Soto, 27

Benjamin Wheeler, 6

Allison Wyatt, 6

Touching Show-Opener of the Day: Saturday Night Live Forgoes Usual Opening Skit For Memorial To Sandy Hook School Shooting Victims

The NBC show ditched comedy during its first moments and featured a children’s choir singing “Silent Night.”

Saturday Night Live rose to the unenviable challenge of putting on a comedy show the day after an unthinkable tragedy.

Forgoing a comedic cold open, the show opened on the SNL stage to the sight of a children’s choir singing “Silent Night.”

After the song, the children delivered the standard “Live from New York” line, and the opening credits kicked in.

This week’s episode is hosted by Martin Short, with musical guest Paul McCartney. Short did not address Friday’s mass-shooting at a Newtown, Connecticut elementary school during his opening monologue. While some Hollywood-related events were postponed in light of the shooting, a spokesperson for the show told The Hollywood Reporter Friday the episode would continue as planned. 

The show has dealt with putting on a show after tragedy before. In 2001, SNL‘s 27th season premiered 18 days after Sept. 11. That episode’s cold open featured executive producer Lorne Michaels asking then-mayor Rudy Giuliani, “Can we be funny?" 

"Why start now?" Giuliani’s responded.

[The Hollywood Reporter]