NEWTOWN, Conn. — The small town of Newtown, Conn., is struggling to understand how and why a 20-year-old man opened fire at an elementary school Friday, killing 20 students and six adults. The shooter had allegedly killed his mother at their home earlier Friday.
The day started out like any other in Newtown, sunny and brisk. But shortly after 9:30 in the morning everything changed.
That’s when the Newtown Police Department received a call for help from the Sandy Hook Elementary School. Police responded immediately, as did Connecticut State Police — both on-duty and off-duty troopers. Slowly, people in this close-knit community learned something was wrong.
“I heard what I thought were shots, but I assumed they were hunters,” said Linda Lyons, who was walking her dog not far from the school. “Shortly thereafter I heard the police sirens, and… it was scary. There was one, there were two, there were five. And I started to see all these out-of-town police cars, the state troopers, the ambulances started to come, one at a time. And they were all moving so fast, I knew something horrible had happened.”
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Word of the shooting spread and other schools around the state went into lockdown — a procedure to protect students in case of an emergency. Eighteen-year-old Nick Sajovic was in Spanish class at Newtown High School. He describes what had been just a drill — up until Friday.
“We close the door and we hide in the corner next to the door just so nobody can see in,” Sajovic said. “Even if he does break down the door it gives us a chance to… self defense kind of thing.”
Sajovic said the lockdown at the high school lasted more than two hours. His father texted him to confirm he was all right. Sajovic was checking his phone for news.
“The first thing I read was from, I believe ABC, that some one retweeted saying there was a shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary,” Sajovic said.
Police were inside the elementary school, according to state police Lt. Paul Vance.
“Their focus was to search for students, faculty and staff and remove them to a safe area outside of the school,” Vance said. “They did search every nook and cranny, every room and every portion of that school, and accomplished that task. They took the rescued to a staging area to reunite them with family members.”
Vance said the it was a horrific scene inside the elementary school.
“There were 18 children that were pronounced dead at the scene,” Vance said. “There were two children that were transported to an area hospital and pronounced dead at the hospital. There were six adults that were pronounced dead at the scene. The shooter’s body was also found inside the school.”
At a second location where police were investigating the shooter, they found another person shot dead, believed to be the gunman’s mother. She reportedly had been a teacher at the elementary school.
Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy spent much of the day meeting with relatives of the victims.
“Teachers, support personnel in the building, and children — beautiful, beautiful children, who had simply come to school to learn,” Malloy said. “Their day ended a very different way than any of us could possibly have imagined. And quite frankly, as we stand here today, still can’t imagine what has transpired there.”
Friday night in Newtown, people gathered in each other’s homes to support one another. And there were prayer services held at at least four churches. Malloy had a simple request.
“I only ask that all of our fellow citizens here in the United States and around the world who have already offered their assistance, remember the victims in their prayers,” Malloy said.
High school students said on Monday, they’ll remember the victims by wearing green and white to school — the colors of Sandy Hook Elementary School.