NEWTOWN, Connecticut: As teams of investigators continued to comb through the carnage at Sandy Hook Elementary School, where a gunman killed 26 people on Friday, officials finally released the names and ages of the dead.
It was revealed all the children killed were six or seven years old and all were shot more than once with a high-powered military-style semi-automatic rifle.
Connecticut’s chief state medical examiner, Wayne Carver, said he had been a medical examiner for about a third of a century and the incident in the school was the worst homicide case he had ever seen.
Of the seven autopsies he had performed, the number of gunshot wounds per person ranged from three to 11, he said.
”I believe everybody was hit more than once,” he said. ”This is a very devastating set of injuries.”
Six school staff died at the scene, where the gunman, 20-year-old Adam Lanza, is thought to have taken his own life.
Lanza’s mother, Nancy, who was earlier thought to have taught at the school, was found shot dead on Friday in the nearby home she shared with her son. Their autopsies had not yet been undertaken.
As Newtown, a pretty town of 26,000, absorbed the awful details, its grieving continued. Flags and posters of love and support for the children, their teachers and families were hung in shop windows. Makeshift memorials appeared on street corners and in front of churches and community buildings.
Residents gathered to speak at the memorials, some in pairs, some in small groups, sometimes embracing, sometimes in prayer.
At the sign at the end of the street leading to the school, which has been blocked off by police since the shooting, many came to lay flowers, toys and candles.
Calliope Ceballos, a five-year-old student of a nearby school, held the hand of her mother, Judith, as she placed feathered angel’s wings on the growing pile of offerings.
”They are angels now,” Judith said. ”My daughter told me yesterday she did not want to go to school on Monday. This has affected us all … Should I send my daughter to school on Monday? If you drop them off on Monday morning, will you see them again?”
New details also emerged about the attack and its immediate aftermath.
Police confirmed Lanza had not been admitted to the school, as earlier reported, but forced his way in. According to reports, the school’s principal, Dawn Hochsprung, and psychologist Mary Sherlach ran to confront him after he shot his way through the front entrance, and were among the first to die.
It was revealed that the killings took only minutes, perhaps a quarter of an hour.
The Newtown Bee described how, when the shooting subsided, the teachers gathered their children into ”trains”, each child with their hands on the shoulders of a person in front.
They were told that only the locomotive, the teacher leading each train, was allowed to keep their eyes open.
They ran through the bloodied corridors and up the road to the fire station, where rolls were taken before the survivors were reunited with parents who had already rushed to the scene.
After the sun set on Saturday, Robbie Parker came to the fire station to speak to reporters about his six-year-old daughter, Emilie, who did not return with any of the trains. He said the world was a better place because Emilie had been in it.
”I’m so blessed to be her dad,” Mr Parker said. ”She never missed an opportunity to draw a picture or make a card for those around her.”
To the family of his daughter’s murderer, he said: ”I can’t imagine how hard this experience must be for you.”
Earlier in the day, Caroline James, who is in her 60s and has lived in the area all her life, sat in a diner drinking tea with her friend Karin Aurelia.
”I just keep thinking of all those little bodies on the ground. How did he do that?” she said.
After the sun set and the temperature fell to freezing, hundreds gathered in the St Rose of Lima Catholic Church.
For the first time, the army of media, which has camped around the village and been met with endless patience, was asked not to attend.
During the service, news broke that the US President, Barack Obama, would visit Newtown to meet families and attend one of the many services scheduled. It seems it will be some days before Newtown is left to grieve quietly.
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