THE father of one of the children shot dead at Sandy Hook Elementary School has extended his sympathy to all the families touched by the tragedy – including that of the killer, 20-year-old Adam Lanza.
”I’d really like to offer our deepest condolences to all the families who are directly affected by this shooting,” said Robbie Parker, the father of Emilie, 6, in an emotional statement to the media on Saturday night, US time.
”It’s an horrific tragedy and we want everybody to know that our hearts and our prayers go out to them. This includes the family of the shooter.”
Fighting back tears, Mr Parker, 30, said his daughter would be one of the first ”to be standing and giving her love and support to all those victims, because that’s the type of person she is”.
Emilie was the kind of child who could ”light up a room”, her father said. She was creative, had an infectious laugh and was ”always able to try new things – except foods”, he said.
His last conversation with her, on Friday morning, was in Portuguese, which he had been teaching her. ”She said that she loved me, and she gave me a kiss, and I was out the door,” said Mr Parker, whose family moved to Newtown eight months ago so he could take a job as a physician’s assistant. ”I’m so blessed to be her dad,” he said,
As authorities released the names of the 20 children – 12 girls and eight boys, aged six or seven – and six adults, all female, killed at the school in Newtown, Connecticut on Friday, portraits of some of the dead emerged. (Lanza’s first victim was his mother, Nancy, 52, killed at their home.)
Tributes poured in for Dawn Hochsprung, 47, the principal of the 575-student school for kindergarten to grade 4 in the affluent town of 27,000. She had been principal since 2010 and had added a new line to the school’s motto, ”Think you can. Work hard. Get smart. Be kind.” Her addendum: ”Have fun”. She lived with her teacher husband, George, and five daughters (two hers, three his) and ”was everything you’d want in an educator”, said the education deputy superintendent William Glass.
Mrs Hochsprung was one of the first people Lanza killed, when she and two colleagues ran out to confront him as shots rang out about 9.35am.
Although the school’s security system called for doors to be locked during the day and visitors to be checked on a video
monitor, the system did not kick in until 9.30am.
Mrs Hochsprung had recently written a paper on the topic ”exhibiting courage in the face of fear” for the doctorate in educational leadership she had begun this year.
Mrs Hochsprung, the vice-principal and the school psychiatrist, Mary Sherlach, 56, confronted Lanza. Only the vice-principal survived.
Anne Marie Murphy’s role as a teacher’s assistant was to provide one-on-one help to a special-needs student but her last thoughts were to save as many children as she could. The married mother of four was found in a classroom, her body on top of those of several students. She had been trying to shield them.
Like so many teachers at the school, Victoria Soto, 27, could think only of how to make her students safe in the face of unthinkable danger. She hurried her students into a bathroom. Two students stood on the toilet. Others huddled on the floor. With no space left, Ms Soto stepped out of the small room and confronted Lanza. She told him the children were in the gym. He then shot her.
”She got those kids to a good place and then told them they were safe,” said Robert Licata, the parent of one of the first-graders who survived. ”She knew them well enough to make them feel OK.”
”She died protecting the kids that she loved,” added her sister Jillian.
Elsewhere, children hid in cupboards, barricaded themselves in bathrooms and huddled in corners while their teachers tried to convince them of something they didn’t always believe themselves – everything will be all right.
But not all the children were lucky. Not Jesse Lewis, 6, who was described by a neighbour as a ”bright, precocious little boy” and by a waitress at the diner where his family ate every Saturday, as a ”little ball of fire”.
Not Chase Kowalski, 7, who had recently won his first mini-triathlon. And not Ana Marquez-Greene, 6, daughter of jazz saxophonist Jimmy Greene.
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