On a weekend when parents should be shopping for presents, in Sandy Hook they're grieving instead. Michael Daly on how unthinkable tragedies became our new normal.
On a sunny Friday morning in an idyllic Connecticut town, we became a nation where a young man in combat attire armed with his mom’s guns allegedly gunned down 20 kids at an elementary school along with the school’s principal and five other adults before he took his own life.
Distraught parents leave the Newtown, Conn., fire station after hearing news of their loved ones from officials, December 14, 2012. (Don Emmert/AFP, via Getty)
We then became a nation where the surviving teachers gathered the surviving kids of Sandy Hook Elementary School in a nearby firehouse and made lists of their names.
Where panicked parents arrived at the firehouse and looked frantically for the little face they wanted to see more than they had ever wanted anything else and checked the lists for the name they prayed would be there.
“Mommy!” a little girl called out, and a mother shrieked with relief and joy.
Where parents who did not see the face or the name were taken aside and asked for their own name and the name of their child.
“A process of elimination unfortunately,” said Connecticut State Police Lt. Paul Vance.
Where those heart-torn parents who hoped—harder than they had ever hoped for anything before—to go home with their child were instead assigned a state trooper to assist them and ensure their privacy.
Sandy Hook, Connecticut, was a quiet village preparing for Christmas. Now shocked residents are struggling to cope with a national tragedy. Eliza Shapiro and Matthew Zeitlin report.
Sandy Hook, Conn., where police say Adam Lanza walked into the local elementary school on Friday and opened fire, killing 20 kindergarten students and six adults before apparently turning the gun on himself, is a place for children.
Mourners gather inside the St. Rose of Lima Roman Catholic Church at a vigil service for victims of the Sandy Hook School shooting December 14, 2012 in Newtown, Connecticut. (Andrew Gombert-Pool/Getty)
“Kids are a big deal in this town,” says Ray Ruzek, the owner of Ice Cream Heaven, located in the center of the small village.
The drive into the central square, down a modest main road, is dotted with children’s stores. Fun Kids Consignments is next to Fun Kuts, a barber shop. The Toy Tree is a few storefronts down. On Halloween, children gather on Main Street, dressed up in costume as adults hand out 3,000 pieces of candy, said one local resident.
Now Sandy Hook will never be the same. The quiet, picturesque New England town had been preparing for Christmas—with a massive illuminated pine tree erected in the center of town—when the second-most fatal school shooting in American history broke out.
According to police reports, Lanza, 20, died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound inside the school. Among the victims was his mother, Nancy Lanza, a teacher there, and principal Dawn Hochsprung. The 20 children were between the ages of 5 and 10. According to CNN, three guns found at the scene were legally purchased by Nancy Lanza.
Sandy Hook’s residents are reeling. Pastor Robert Weiss of St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church says at least seven or eight of the children in his parish had been in the school when the gunman entered. “I baptized some of these children,” he said, breaking down in tears. “Some were getting ready for their First Communion this year.”
On Friday afternoon, the intersection leading up to the elementary school was a chaotic scene, with the road blocked by police and emergency vehicles. Dozens of reporters and TV cameras and crews clogged the area. A large NBC truck, apparently stuck, cut off traffic in both directions.
The arguments for gun rights vs. gun control ramped up once again in the aftermath of the massacre at Newtown Elementary, as America’s mass shootings proliferate.
Within hours of Friday morning’s horrific school shooting in Newtown, Conn., Ladd Everitt was planning an impromptu but urgent protest at the White House.
Everitt is director of communications at the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, and he hopes that if anything good can come out of Friday’s rampage, it’s change. Finally.
“Silence is no longer acceptable,” Everitt told The Daily Beast. “If you can’t find the courage to stand up to the NRA after a classroom of kindergarteners gets killed ...”
And off he went, just as President Obama was tearfully addressing the nation, and perhaps hinting that he agreed.
“We’ve endured too many of these tragedies in the past few years,” Obama said at an afternoon press conference. “We’re going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics.”
No matter how inspired he is to do so, no matter how riled up your friends are on Facebook and Twitter, that “meaningful action” will be hard-won. If there’s any lesson from the past 15 years’ alarming spate of mass shootings, it’s that they don’t tend to inspire much more than rhetoric, from both sides of the debate about gun control.
“People who are against guns say if people didn’t have guns, this wouldn’t have happened, therefore we can’t let anybody have guns,” says Edward Leddy, a professor of criminology and sociology at Florida’s Saint Leo College. “The other side is going to say if criminals are the only ones who have guns, criminals become essentially a protected class.”
On Friday, 27 people died in a shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. From President Obama’s teary-eyed press conference to the poignant stories of teachers and parents, watch these vignettes from a dark day.
Obama: ‘Our Hearts Are Broken Today’
In a solemn press conference Friday afternoon, President Obama wept as he offered condolences to the victims’ families. “As a country, we have been through this too many times,” said Obama. “While nothing can fill the space of a lost child or loved one, all of us can extend a hand to those in need.”
Mother: “We Got A Miracle”
A mother of a 10-year-old boy at Sandy Hook Elementary School told CBS News that the “school should be very proud” of the teachers who kept her son safe. “I get to put my kids to bed at night, and I’m very lucky,” she said, while tearfully acknowledging that “there’s a lot of parents tonight that have not gotten that miracle.”
Teacher: “I Thought We Were All Going To Die”
Along with 20 school children.
Local police have announced that 27 total people were killed, 20 of them children, in a school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, on Friday. The shooter is being reported as Adam Lanza, 20. His mother, Nancy, was a kindergarten teacher was reportedly killed at her home before her son went to Sandy Hook Elementary and opened fire on two classrooms of students. The school's principal and psychologist are among the dead. Police say the guns he used are thought to have been registered in Lanza's mother's name. Governor Daniel Malloy called it a "tragedy of unspeakable terms," and President Obama held a tearful press conference, extending his condolences and ordering flags to fly at half mast.
After Connecticut’s deadly shooting.
Is a certain pro-gun group, on the receiving end of tremendous backlash after a massacre at a Connecticut elementary school Friday morning, going into hiding? The National Rifle Association canceled a planned “Tweet & Greet” with country musician Colt Ford that was scheduled for this afternoon. “Apologies for the inconvenience, but the @ColtFord Tweet & Greet will be rescheduled. Please check back for more info!” a announcement said. The event is part of a series that features country artists “involved in causes that defend our values,” according to the NRA. The NRA has not yet commented on whether the cancellation came in light of the shooting.
Including Governor Malloy.
Hundreds packed into a small church Friday in Newtown, Conn., to honor the 26 slain—20 of whom were children—earlier in the day at Sandy Hook Elementary School. With the church filled to capacity, hundreds stood outside holding hands, lighting candles, and saying prayers. Gov. Dannel Malloy was among the speakers addressing the crowd. Vigils were also held in Times Square and outside the White House.
Initial reports on TV, online named suspect's brother
In the saturation coverage that followed the Connecticut school massacre, some in the media made an awful mistake.
While fragmentary reports after a mass shooting are often marked by errors, it is difficult to imagine a worse blunder than identifying the wrong man as the killer.
It began on social media, which reported that Ryan Lanza, the 24-year-old son of a teacher, was the shooter. Images of Lanza’s Facebook profile spread across the web. (The media wrongly reported that Lanza's mother taught at the Newtown elementary school, a mistake that was initially repeated here.)
CNN, MSNBC, Fox News and CBS reported that Lanza was the shooting suspect. So did Slate and the Huffington Post. “Ryan Lanza Facebook Page Shows Suggestive Details of Apparent Newtown, Connecticut Shooting Suspect,” said the HuffPost headline. Some reports attributed the information to investigators.
But Lanza, whose profile picture was shared thousands of times online, posted vehement denials on his Facebook page, such as: “Everyone shut the fuck up, it wasn’t me.”
And it wasn’t. The news outlets later corrected their stories, saying police had identified the shooter as Adam Lanza, 20, who is Ryan Lanza’s brother.
This was an egregious error, a product of a fast-moving media culture in which getting it first often supersedes getting it right. Accusing the wrong man of perpetrating a massacre in which 27 people, including 20 children, were killed is about as bad as it gets. And in the Twitter age, that misinformation spread around the globe as ordinary folks amplified the mistaken media accounts.
Blogger Jeff Jarvis, who teaches journalism at the City University of New York, followed the trail on Twitter and did not name Ryan Lanza in his post. But Jarvis wrote later that he “foolishly did not include a conditional statement in my tweet: I did not say ‘if this is the account of the killer, then…’ Or I did not say this was the ‘alleged’ or ‘reputed’ account of the person named as the killer. These are basic, basic journalistic skills drilled until they are reflexes and I would use them in any story for print. I didn’t use them online.”
Killed by gunman.
“She was our hero.” That’s what Sandy Hook Elementary School’s therapist said about Dawn Hochsprung, the principal who was killed in Friday’s shooting rampage. The therapist, Diane Day, was with Hochsprung and a school psychologist when they heard shots in the hallway. Hochsprung and the therapist “didn’t think twice about confronting or seeing what was going on,” and immediately ran to the melee, Day said. Because there was no lock on the door to the room she was in, Day pressed her body against it. She was shot through the door in her arm and leg.
Chart of the Day: In the wake of the Newtown shooting, two gun-company stocks take a sharp drop, writes Dan Gross.
In the wake of the shooting in Newtown, Conn., the stock prices of two publicly held companies that specialize in gun manufacturing fell sharply. The chart shows that the stocks of Smith & Wesson Holding Companies and Sturm, Ruger & Co. were basically treading water through much of the day, but then fell about 4 percent in the afternoon as details of the horrific episode became apparent.
As was usual in the case of such events, calls for gun control were muted. But the stock market is famously a futures market; investors try to anticipate what might happen to companies in the future. And it’s reasonable for shareholders to think that events such as this might spur measures that would make it more difficult for people to buy guns.
He wore all black and carried two handguns plus a .223-caliber rifle. He may have been developmentally disabled. Kevin Fallon pieces together details about the man who killed 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
“Police with big guns” stormed the building, says one 9-year-old girl. The children were led out of Sandy Hook Elementary School and told to cover their eyes.
A woman talks to a state police officer at the scene of a shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, Friday, December 14, 2012. (Cloe Poisson/Hartford Currant via Landov)
Just before 9:30 a.m., according to still developing reports, Adam Lanza, 20, walked into the school in Newtown, Conn., and opened fire on students and staff. Unofficial reports have the body count at 26, at least 20 of them children, with still more being treated at nearby Danbury Hospital. Lanza then shot and killed himself.
The entire nation is mourning the news, shell-shocked by images of wailing children fleeing the schools single file. They are haunted by anecdotes from surviving students, like the girl who told Fox News that her teacher heard the shots, locked the door, and huddled her pupils in the darkest corner of the room.
The collective thought: Who would do such a thing?
Lanza was 20. His mother, Nancy, may have been a teacher at Sandy Hook Elementary, and police say she was found dead in her Newtown home. According to sources, Lanza “had a dispute with her” before targeting her kindergarten classroom during his shooting rampage. Police say he opened fire on two rooms. In addition to his mother, the school’s principal and psychologist were shot dead. He used two handguns and a .223-caliber assault rifle.
When his dead body was found in the school, he was dressed in all black and wearing body armor.
One parent who was in the school during the attack said “100 rounds” must have been fired. There was a “pop pop pop” sound in the hallway, said Meredith Artley. Three people went to investigate, but “only one person came back.”
The media swarm over tragedies like the Connecticut school shooting but treat gun control as the third rail of politics. Lauren Ashburn on why the press avoids this vital debate—and why it shouldn’t.
Not long after the horrifying massacre at a Connecticut elementary school, the usual panoply of pundits on cable television was asked to react to the news.
Supporters of gun control gather on Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House in Washington, Friday, Dec. 14, 2012, during a vigil for the victims of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Ct., and to call on President Obama to pass strong gun control laws. (Charles Dharapak/AP)
“This is not the day to talk about the politics of it,” said Susan Page of USA Today on MSNBC. That, in turn, prompted blogger Jeff Jarvis, to write: “Wrong. This is the day.”
Even White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, when asked by reporters Friday whether the tragedy put gun control higher on the president’s priority list, said “today is not that day” to discuss policy.
We have been through this again and again. Columbine. Virginia Tech. Tucson. Aurora. Is Jarvis right? Is it finally time to have an honest debate about the subject our politicians seem determined to avoid?
I understand the reluctance to dive into a divisive debate even before the bodies are counted. I understand the passionate feelings on both sides of the issue.
Every time there is a tragedy involving guns, all the ideologues come out with their predictable positions. Gun enthusiasts claim that opponents want to get rid of the Second Amendment and that it doesn’t take such weapons to kill people. Gun control supporters say there would be less senseless violence in America if it weren’t so easy to walk into a store and buy a gun and—in most states—endless rounds of ammunition.
Today’s Connecticut elementary-school massacre shows just how much our society is being held hostage by the thugs of the NRA. How many more of us have to die before we act?
How many children have to die, how many innocents have to be lost in a mall or a theater or on a neighborhood street, how many presidents or political leaders or prophets like Dr. King have to be shot down in a fusillade that wounds history itself, before America protects the first of our founding inalienable rights—to “life”—which surely comes before the “liberty” of carrying a cache of weapons. And that demands gun control—and I’m not using a politically convenient phrase like “gun safety legislation.” Some guns are outright unsafe—assault weapons—and all guns are unsafe in the hands of some people.
Parents leave a staging area after being reunited with their children following a shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., about 60 miles (96 kilometers) northeast of New York City, Dec. 14, 2012. (Jessica Hill / AP Photo)
We as a society are hostage to the thugs of the NRA—which actually stands for the National Rampage Association.
Republicans who claim to defend the “right to life” profit politically by defending the moral wrong of a wholesale arsenal of death inflicted on the already living. The religious right that has allied itself with the gun lobby defies Christ’s warning that those who harm the children would be better off thrown into the sea with a millstone around their necks. Shouldn’t the protection of life begin not with a fertilized egg, but with human beings who are truly and fully alive?
And on the other side, politicians who know better, including most Democrats, cower before the threat of electoral retaliation—and invoke the rationalization that it is too hard to pass anything in Congress, even a ban on assault weapons or closing the gun-show loophole that lets criminals and the deranged shop for firearms without any background check. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said today is “not the time” to talk about policies that at least in theory President Obama supports. Oh yes it is. If not now, when? If not the president, who? As he spoke in stricken terms, he seemed to comprehend that—and that he holds the office Franklin Roosevelt described as “pre-eminently a place of moral leadership.”
No measure short of banning all firearms could prevent all shootings. But we can take practical measures that would save many lives. Who among us, who among our children, could be the next to be killed in an unexpected moment of unspeakable horror? So now we will shed a tear again. And in the phrase of Robert Kennedy, who himself would soon be a casualty instead of a president, we should “say a prayer for ourselves and for our country.” And we should have the courage to do something for our country, too. We should look into the anguished faces of parents outside that Connecticut elementary school—faces now tragically incised on our national consciousness. We should recall events from that darkness at noon in Dallas nearly 60 years ago to the carnage at Columbine and Aurora. Those faces and events matter more than the scorecard of the National Rampage Association.
Let us resolve that half a century and more of this country as a killing field is more than enough. Let us refuse to let this day of dying fade into memory and the malaise of resignation to things as they are. Let us stand against the odds so that countless others who otherwise would never even know the cause of their slaying or the name of their executioner may instead live, laugh, and find love and not hate.
Today Barack Obama spoke his heart and the nation’s—and called on us to take “meaningful action regardless of the politics.” Maybe at last, this is the time; it must be the time. The massacre has come too many times.
The president got emotional discussing today’s school shooting in Connecticut, and promised ‘meaningful action.’ Read his words.
This afternoon, I spoke with Governor Malloy and FBI Director Mueller. I offered Governor Malloy my condolences on behalf of the nation, and made it clear he will have every single resource that he needs to investigate this heinous crime, care for the victims, counsel their families.
We’ve endured too many of these tragedies in the past few years. And each time I learn the news I react not as a President, but as anybody else would—as a parent. And that was especially true today. I know there’s not a parent in America who doesn’t feel the same overwhelming grief that I do.
The majority of those who died today were children—beautiful little kids between the ages of 5 and 10 years old. They had their entire lives ahead of them—birthdays, graduations, weddings, kids of their own. Among the fallen were also teachers—men and women who devoted their lives to helping our children fulfill their dreams.
So our hearts are broken today—for the parents and grandparents, sisters and brothers of these little children, and for the families of the adults who were lost. Our hearts are broken for the parents of the survivors as well, for as blessed as they are to have their children home tonight, they know that their children’s innocence has been torn away from them too early, and there are no words that will ease their pain.
As a country, we have been through this too many times. Whether it’s an elementary school in Newtown, or a shopping mall in Oregon, or a temple in Wisconsin, or a movie theater in Aurora, or a street corner in Chicago—these neighborhoods are our neighborhoods, and these children are our children. And we're going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics.
This evening, Michelle and I will do what I know every parent in America will do, which is hug our children a little tighter and we’ll tell them that we love them, and we’ll remind each other how deeply we love one another. But there are families in Connecticut who cannot do that tonight. And they need all of us right now. In the hard days to come, that community needs us to be at our best as Americans. And I will do everything in my power as President to help.
Because while nothing can fill the space of a lost child or loved one, all of us can extend a hand to those in need—to remind them that we are there for them, that we are praying for them, that the love they felt for those they lost endures not just in their memories but also in ours.
Says it's time to take action.
President Obama gave an emotional speech during a White House press conference after today’s mass shooting at a school in Connecticut. “As a country we have been through this too many times,” the president said, recalling numerous mass shootings that have occurred in recent years and adding that the country is going to have to “take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of politics.” He brushed away tears as he spoke of the victims as “our children,” adding that he and the first lady will do tonight “what every other parent in America will do, which is to hug our kids a little tighter and tell them we love them.”
A mother of a 10-year-old boy at Sandy Hook Elementary School broke down while talking to CBS News on Friday. 'I get to put my kids to bed at night, and I’m very lucky,' she said, while tearfully acknowledging that 'there’s a lot of parents tonight that have not gotten that miracle.'
Friday’s horrific Colorado shooting has reignited the debate on gun control. Just how bad is the problem?
We as a society are held hostage by the NRA’s thugs. This must be the time for change. By Robert Shrum.
Gov. Dan Malloy mourned the loss of 'beautiful beautiful children' in a poignant speech on Friday evening. To those who want to help, Malloy said the best way is to “say a prayer or send a best wish or to be thinking of these individuals who have suffered so mightily today.”
The president got emotional discussing today’s school shooting in Connecticut. Read his words.
Kevin Fallon pieces together details about the Connecticut shooter.