by EMILY BEZERRA and CHRISTINE ABRAHAM Social Media Coordinator and Photographer
Tragedy struck the quiet town of Newtown, Connecticut, when 26 innocent lives were taken during the Sandy Hook Elementary school shooting on Friday, December 14.
The shooter, identified as Adam Lanza, 20, was reported dead at the school from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Nancy Lanza, the shooter’s mother, was also found dead in the home in which she and her son shared.
Law enforcement officials say that Lanza shot his mother and drove her car to the school, armed with three weapons, all owned by his mother. Around 9:30 AM, Lanza arrived at Sandy Hook Elementary school, heavily armed and dressed in military gear. He opened fire in two first grade classrooms, killing 20 children. He then proceeded to fatally wound six teachers.
“They had their entire lives ahead of them,” said President Obama, as tears pricked his eyes, at a news conference in Washington.
Lanza’s adult victims include school principal Dawn Hochsprung, school psychologist Mary Sherlach, and teachers Victoria Soto, Lauren Rousseau, Anne Murphy, and Rachel D’Avino.
Hochsprung and Sherlach died from risking their own lives to protect the school. When they saw the shooter, they lunged at him to try to stop him, but Lanza shot them down as they came.
Investigators still do not know what Lanza’s motives were and why he decided to target the school.
Investigations continued into Lanza’s home where a computer and hard drive were found smashed, apparently by a hammer. Police are still trying to recover information on Lanza from the drive, hoping it will bring them to some sort of conclusion.
When the investigation began, the shooter was mistakenly identified as 24-year-old Ryan Lanza, Adam Lanza’s brother, whose ID was found on the scene. Ryan was arrested at his home in Hoboken, NJ, and later released when the true identity of the gunman was revealed.
Ryan returned home to find bizarre Facebook and Twitter posts about him being the shooter. He updated Facebook statuses defending himself, claiming, “IT WASN’T ME!”
Members of the Lanza family are also victims in this tragedy. They are mourning the loss of Nancy Lanza and trying to fathom the reasoning behind Adam’s actions.
“I’m shocked and disgusted that someone would be sick enough to take away the lives of innocent children. I can’t even imagine what it must feel like to lose a child, let alone have your child murdered. It is so overwhelming to think that something as tragic as this could happen in such a small and safe town right in Connecticut,” said sophomore Alyssa Clemente.
Twenty-seven–year-old teacher Victoria Soto emerged as an American hero after the shooting. When gunshots were heard, Soto hid all her students in the classroom’s closets. Lanza entered the room abruptly, questioning the students’ whereabouts. Soto said that they were in the school gymnasium, and was mortally wounded when Lanza shot her down.
“Victoria Soto was really brave. She was willing to die for them. She lied for those kids so they could live. That takes a lot of guts,” said sophomore Nicole Moscillo.
Soto’s burial was held Wednesday, December 19, following her wake held Tuesday. The teacher was described as an enthusiastic and wonderful young lady by friends and family. Those who knew her are not the slightest bit surprised at her act of character.
“Vicki died a hero. That she was protecting her children, which she loved very much. She did not call them her students, she called them her kids,” said Soto’s cousin, James Wiltsie.
Aside from Soto, many of the other victim’s wakes were held this week. The first child to be buried was 7-year-old Daniel Barden.
It comes as no surprise that the students of Sandy Hook Elementary have not attended school all week. Instead, they will be sent to Chalk Hill school in Monroe, CT, upon their return. Every other school in Newtown is back in session, though students and teachers are still mourning over the lives of the lost.
The small town of Newtown will never quite be the same. Family and friends of victims are still devastated, doing anything and everything they can to remember their loved ones. Deceased 5-year-old Emilie Parker is being remembered through pink ribbons hung all over town, as pink was her favorite color.
Not only is this the seventh massacre to take place in the US this year, but this is the second deadliest school shooting in recorded history, right behind the Virginia Tech Massacre on April 16, 2007.