NEWTOWN, Conn. The Connecticut State Police has released the names of the victims of Friday’s shooting in an elementary school in Newtown. Twelve girls and eight boys lost their lives — all of them first graders. All six adult victims were women. But there were survivors.
Pam Midlik, an educational assistant, has worked at Sandy Hook Elementary for 14 years. On Friday morning, she was inside her first-grade classroom when she heard a loud noise that she didn’t recognize.
“It didn’t sound like gunshots because who would ever think there were gunshots in our town?” Midlik said.
Midlik said it sounded like a roll of aluminum unfolding. And she wondered if someone was working on the roof.
“So I decided to walk up the hall to actually find out what the noise was because it was continuous,” Midlik said. “It would stop and then it would start. It would stop and start.”
In the hallway she met a father of a student. He was there to help build gingerbread houses. Then an art teacher walked by and recognized the sound.
“She said, ‘Oh my God, guns! I hear shooting.’ And so at that point I looked at the dad and I said, ‘Go back to the classroom and tell the teacher it’s a lockdown, and close the door and keep the kids safe,’ ” Midlik recalled.
A lockdown is a drill the school children practice often, where they hide behind a locked door.
“I ran back to our classroom and I told our teacher the same thing and I closed the door and turned off the lights and we got all our kids into the cubby,” Midlik said.
The cubby is an alcove inside the classroom. The children huddled on the floor together and first grade teacher Vicky Kazlauskas did her best to distract them from the sound of gunshots by reading to them.
“The intercom had gone on and we could hear the static, but also hear like noise and screams and things like that,” Midlik said. “So she kept reading to them to try to keep them occupied so they wouldn’t have to listen to anything.”
When library clerk Mary Ann Jacob heard gunshots she ran to the classroom across the hall and told the teacher to lock the room. Then she secured her group of 18 fourth graders.
“We all got down on the floor and were quiet and then we discovered that the door wouldn’t lock we had them crawl across the room to this closet area, bigger than a closet, like a storage room. We settled them down with paper and crayons and asked them to color,” Jacob said.
Eventually the police banged on the doors of both classrooms. The adults didn’t let the police in at first.
“They had someone call us and then they also put a badge under door,” Jacob said. “So that’s when we moved file cabinets and started letting the kids out to them.”
Midlik and Kazlauskas also checked before letting the officers in. Then they both walked the children out.
“We had the kids lined up in between us. I was in the back and they held onto each other’s shoulders and they closed their eyes as tight as they could, they got their way up the hallway and out as fast as they could,” Midlik said.
Midlik also averted her eyes as she walked out. Those who were inside Sandy Hook Elementary School on Friday are still grappling with what they lived through. One reporter asked Mary Ann Jacob if her fourth graders are old enough to comprehend the tragedy.
“I can’t comprehend the tragedy that happened. Can you?”
Correction: A previous version of this story mistakenly identified the 20 young victims as fourth graders. They were first graders.