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Sandy Hook Elementary School Shooting: Teachers Praised For Heroism

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One bright spot glows among the grief in Newtown, Connecticut - the stories of staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary School who may have prevented further carnage.

School psychologist Mary Sherlach and principal Dawn Hochsprung ran toward gunman Adam Lanza after he broke through the school door. Officials say Hochsprung died while lunging at the gunman. Sherlach also died.

Another worker turned on the school intercom, alerting others in the building. A custodian ran through the halls warning of danger. A clerk led 18 children on their hands and knees to safety in a storage room with a lock. She then gave them paper and crayons to keep them calm and quiet.

sandy hook

Six female members of staff were killed

And a cousin of teacher Victoria Soto told ABC News that 27-year-old died trying to shield children from bullets.

District Superintendent Janet Robinson noted "incredible acts of heroism" that "ultimately saved so many lives."

"The teachers were really, really focused on their students," she told reporters.

After gunman Adam Lanza broke through the school door, gun blazing, school psychologist Mary Sherlach and principal Dawn Hochsprung ran toward him, Robinson said.

Hochsprung died while lunging at the gunman, officials said.

victoria soto

Victoria Soto, a 27-year-old teacher, reportedly hid some students in a bathroom or closet and died trying to shield them from bullets

The 56-year-old Sherlach, who would have been tasked with helping survivors cope with the tragedy, died doing what she loved, her son-in-law, Eric Schwartz, told the South Jersey Times.

"Mary felt like she was doing God's work," he said, "working with the children."

Just this past October, Hochsprung had tweeted a picture of the school's evacuation drill with the message "Safety first."

Victoria Soto, a 27-year-old teacher, reportedly hid some students in a bathroom or closet and died trying to shield them from bullets, a cousin, Jim Wiltsie, told ABC News. Those who knew Soto said they weren't surprised.

"You have a teacher who cared more about her students than herself," said John Harkins, mayor of Stratford, Soto's hometown. "That speaks volumes to her character, and her commitment and dedication."

In other cases, staffers both saved students and managed to escape with their own lives.

Teacher Theodore Varga said that as gunfire echoed through the school, a custodian ran around, warning people. He appears to have survived; all the adults killed were women.

"He said, 'Guys! Get down! Hide!'" Varga said. "So he was actually a hero."

Someone switched on the intercom, alerting people in the building to the attack by letting them hear the chaos in the school office, a teacher said. Teachers locked their doors and ordered children to huddle in a corner or hide in closets as shots echoed through the building.

In a classroom, teacher Kaitlin Roig barricaded her 15 students into a tiny bathroom, pulled a bookshelf across the door and locked it. She told the kids to be "absolutely quiet."

"I said, 'There are bad guys out there now. We need to wait for the good guys,'" she told ABC News.

One student claimed to know karate. "It's OK. I'll lead the way out," the student said.

Clerk Maryann Jacob was working with a group of 18 fourth-graders in the library when the shooting broke out. She herded the children into a classroom in the library, but then realised the door wouldn't lock.

They crawled across the room into a storage space, locked the door and barricaded it with a filing cabinet. There happened to be materials for colouring, she said, "so we set them up with paper and crayons."

One person who wasn't in the school at all also is getting praise for his grace: Robbie Parker, whose daughter Emilie died.

Speaking to reporters Saturday, he said he was not mad and offered sympathy for Lanza's family.

"I can't imagine," he said, "how hard this experience must be for you."

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The president of the Connecticut Funeral Director's Association said the funeral and burial process for Newtown victims, which began Monday with the separate burials of Noah Pozner and Jack Pinto, who both were six-years-old, is unlike anything he has seen before.

"I've unfortunately seen lots of kids who have died," said Pasquale Forino, 46, who runs Neilan Funeral Home in New London, Conn. "But this truly shakes your foundation to the core, and in a small town like Newtown, they need lots of help to handle this week of burials."

Forino and a group of morticians who have volunteered have driven to Newtown every day since Friday to help tend to families who are grieving and prepare arriving bodies for viewings and burials. The main funeral home in the town, Honan Funeral Home, is handling the process for 11 victims. Of those, Forino said he has worked on three -- all kids.

"It's not about me, it's about the families and victims. But it still affects us," he said. "We do what we can do to take care of the families. We'll deal with our own emotional needs later."

--HuffPost's Jaweed Kaleem

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Sandy Hook School students will be attending Chalk Hill School in Monroe, CT as an alternative education facility in the wake of the shooting. Monroe police answered questions during a press conference briefing about the preparations of the building for use by Sandy Hook Elementary School, and outlined how police officers will keep children safe and secure on their first day back to school.

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Via Patch:

In the aftermath of the Sandy Hook shooting, a New Jersey columnist urges people and politicians to fight for stronger gun control laws.

"Every time there is a mass shooting, we shake our heads and bemoan the tragic violence. We wonder aloud why our elected officials cannot stanch the flow of weapons. We rue the fact that there are so many troubled individuals out there, desperate for help and poised to commit terrible crimes, for no apparent reason. But nothing ever changes," she writes. "This holiday season, can we all rise up as one and say ENOUGH?"

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Via Patch:

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-NH, issued a statement Monday in the wake of last week's school shooting in Newtown, Conn., saying it's time to get assault weapons off the streets.

"After a heartbroken weekend where the nation grieved with the families of Newtown, it's time for elected leaders to come together and determine what we can do to help end the culture of violence that is leading to these tragedies," Shaheen said. "We need a comprehensive approach that includes improving access to mental health services, better enforcement of our current laws, and we need to get deadly assault weapons off our streets."

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A nationally representative face-to-face survey of more than 10,000 teens ages 13-18 turned up alarming findings about their access to professional mental health care.

Only about one-third of those with any lifetime mental disorder got professional help, and just half of those severely impaired by mental disorders received professional help, the study found. State and federal efforts to increase youth mental health services aren't working, it said. Racial and ethnic minority youth were least likely to get help, the study found.

-- HuffPost's David Wood

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Via Newtown Patch:

Lines are forming outside funeral homes in Newtown, Fairfield and Monroe, CT as people assemble to pay their respects to three 6-year-olds who were among the 26 victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting on Dec. 14. In Newtown, services for Jack Pinto, 6, are set to start at 1 p.m. In Fairfield, mourners gathered for services for Noah Pozner, 6.

A wake is scheduled today in Monroe for James Mattioli, 6. The three 6-year-olds are the first of the 26 victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting to be laid to rest. Funeral services for the other victims will take place tomorrow and Wednesday.

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Via Patch:

The controversial Westboro Baptist Church has announced plans to protest outside of the Anne Arundel Circuit Court on Jan 2.—the first day same-sex couples will be able to wed there. "On that day the court starts committing that abomination that brings the shooter like it did in Connecticut," said Shirley Phelps-Roper, the daughter of the church's founder.

She also made headlines this weekend when she claimed via Twitter that Adam Lanza, the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooter, was sent by God. She told Annapolis Patch, "God keeps sending the shooter."

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American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten and AFT Michigan President David Hecker on Sunday urged Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder Sunday to veto legislation that would allow concealed firearms in schools and other locations.

The tragic massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., on Dec. 14, is a “chilling and heartbreaking reminder” that “firearms have absolutely no place in our schools,” they wrote. “Gov. Snyder, please show the kind of leadership that students, families, educators and community members need to be as safe as possible in their schools. You can set an example for Michigan and the nation by taking this small but significant step to reduce gun violence by vetoing S.B. 59.”

View the letter here.

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@ TVMarci : Wow. Someone from CA just called the #Newtown General Store saying she wants to buy coffee for everyone in town. Every cup is billed to her

@ TVMarci : Clerk @ #Newtown General Store started crying when woman offered to pay for every coffee purchased today. What an amazing #actofkindness

@ TVMarci : This sign now hangs in front of the #Newtown General Store. Thank you, Tom Cabanaugh! #actofkindess http://t.co/DsLk5B2W

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From Patch:

Reports of a suspicious person at the Branchfield train station in Ridgefield Monday morning brought out police and placed all local schools on lockdown. Authorities, along with a K-9 unit, are canvassing the area after receiving a report of a man with an unknown item slung over his back. Police were first informed of the suspicious person at about 9 a.m.

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From Patch:

An unidentified person was reportedly taken into police custody in the vicinity of Upper Dublin High School this morning following a report of a possibly armed subject at the school. Montgomery County Public Safety radio reports indicated one person at the school was in custody at about 9:00 a.m.

Numerous police units from surrounding departments had been on their way to the school and were instructed to return to their home jurisdictions. An Upper Dublin Police Department representative said by telephone that the incident was a "misunderstanding" and that students were never in danger. WPVI-TV reported via its Twitter feed that a student's umbrella was mistaken for a firearm.

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From the AP:

The man identified as the gunman who killed 26 children and adults in an elementary school took college classes when he was only 16, a spokesman for Western Connecticut State University said Monday.

Paul Steinmetz, spokesman for the Danbury school, confirmed that Adam Lanza earned a 3.26 grade point average while a student there. He dropped out of a German language class and withdrew from a computer science class, but earned an A in a computer class, A-minus in American history and B in macroeconomics.

He participated when called on by the teacher in his evening course on introductory German, according to Dot Stasny, who was one of about a dozen other students in the class in the spring of 2009. She said she and a classmate once invited him out to a bar but he declined, saying he was only 17.

Read the rest here.

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@ smkeyes : .@NRA still hasn't tweeted since Friday. Deafening silence.

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Writing in the National Journal, Ron Fournier worries that the wrong lessons will be drawn from the Sandy Hook tragedy:

My son cradled the iPad and scanned The New York Times article I had downloaded: "A Gunman, Recalled as Intelligent and Shy, Who Left Few Footprints in Life." It said mass murderer Adam Lanza may have had Asperger's syndrome, a high-functioning form of autism.

Tyler is an Aspie. He shrugged. “If you meet somebody with Asperger’s,” he said, “you’ve only met one person with Asperger’s.”

Tyler's point is worth us all noting: Don’t overgeneralize. Don’t stigmatize in a rush to explain inexplicable evil. Autism didn't cause this tragedy: Asperger’s is a blip on the far-reaching autism spectrum and no two cases are the same. Just as no “typical” person deserves to be tar-brushed with the evil acts of another, Aspies don’t deserve the bad press they’re getting.

Read the whole piece here.

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HuffPost's Amanda Terkel reports:

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), one of the strongest backers of the National Rifle Association (NRA) in the Democratic Party, said it is time to sit down and have a "sensible, reasonable" debate about gun control in light of the massacre in Newtown, Conn., and expressed an openness to banning assault weapons.

"It's time to move beyond rhetoric. We need to sit down and have a common-sense discussion and move in a reasonable way. ... Everything has to be on the table," Manchin said in an interview on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" on Monday, adding that he had just come from deer hunting with his family.

Manchin's comments are significant because he has a "A" rating from the NRA for his pro-gun positions, and the organization endorsed him as recently as October 2012.

Read more here.

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From The Associated Press:

Dennis Carlson, superintendent of Anoka-Hennepin School District in Minnesota, said a mental health consultant will meet with school officials Monday, and there will be three associates – one to work with the elementary, middle and high schools, respectively. As the day goes on, officials will be on the lookout for any issues that arise, and extra help will go where needed.

"We are concerned for everybody – our staff and student body and parents," Carlson said. "It's going to be a day where we are all going to be hypervigilant, I know that."

Full story here.

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View the video and photos here (via Newtown Patch)

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An excerpt from the prayer by Rev. Rob Mossis, vicar of Christ the King Lutheran Church, following the president's address:

"We bring to you 20 new stars in the heavens, 20 new saints, 20 new angels. We bring to you those who risk their lives for us everyday not counting the cost, and we bring to you those who died, those who counsel, those who bless and embrace the confused and the broken. And now in this prayer, we bring to you ourselves, our questions, our doubts, our anger and our hearts, and we pray for the peace, the hope and the renewal of trust that can come only from a God who first conceived us in love and places a hand of compassion on each of our shouldlers even in the most trying times. And so tonight for our community, a community deepl pained, we ask you to heal our brokenness, to answer our questions, to replace our doubts with certainty, our anger with peace and our hurt with and healing…"

Full story here from Newtown Patch.

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@ E_Laffs2 : Can't stop listening to your voicemails, Mommy. I need you now and forever... @DHochsprung

@ E_Laffs2 : A great man holding my precious niece, @DHochsprung woulda love to see it. I love you mommy @BarackObama http://t.co/jbjHzL6y

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An excerpt from a prayer by Rev. Jim Solomon of the New Hope Community Church:

"Dear Lord, as we leave the children that we lost in your hands, we ask that by your grace you woud empower us to bless and comfort the children that are still here in our hands. Please be with them in a special way as they grieve the loss of siblings and friends. Life will never be the same, yet we ask that you help these precious little ones to carry the spirits of their lost loved ones in their hearts as they go along living their lives to its fullest according to your will for each of these girls and boys."

Full story from Newtown Patch here.

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@ Chass63 : My mother was murdered. Murdered. This can't be real.

@ Chass63 : My mom would be SO proud to see President Obama holding her granddaughter. But not as proud as I am of her. http://t.co/YDU88x3O

@ Chass63 : My mom, Dawn Hochsprung, was taken tragically from me. But she went down in a blaze of glory that truly represents who she was. #Newtown

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"Eleven year-old Briana Krasowski is among those waiting to attend an interfaith vigil service for Sandy Hook victims on Sunday, Dec. 16. Credit Amy Krasowski"

View the picture here.

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@ MayorMark : There will be a Danbury Police Officer in every elementary school tomorrow. #Danbury

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The National Rifle Association (NRA) appeared to have reactivated its Facebook page Sunday, after having temporarily disabled the page following Friday's massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

The nation's most influential pro-gun lobby has faced withering criticism in the days following the mass murder, during which authorities believe 20 year-old Adam Lanza used a legally obtained Bushmaker assault rifle, as well as two handguns, to kill 20 children and six adults at the Newtown, Conn., elementary school.

The day before the shootings, the NRA boasted of having achieved 1.7 million "Likes," on Facebook. The group's reactivated Facebook page simply contains a link to a Wikipedia entry about the group. The pared down NRA page had 32,313 Likes on Sunday at 6:30 pm.

The group's Twitter account does not appear to have been deactivated, but it has not been updated since Friday morning, before the shootings began. A spokeswoman for the group told Time Warner Cable late Friday that "Until the facts are thoroughly known, NRA will not have any comment."

--Christina Wilkie, HuffPost

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A group of volunteers calling themselves "Santas for Sandy Hook" have been out on Newtown's streets this weekend, raising money to support the victims of Friday's shooting.

What started as a small group setting up tables quickly grew to about 25 volunteers, said Zoe Walter, who was with Kay Donohuy and Kristen Brassard at a table in front of Starbucks on Church Hill Road. Walter said the group hopes to raise ,000 for the victims by the end of the weekend.

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A member of Westboro Baptist Church, the group that is known for picketing funerals of soldiers and AIDS victims, says the group plans to picket Sandy Hook Elementary School, according to Examiner.com.

A day after Friday's shooting in Newtown, CT, where police said 20-year-old Adam Lanza killed his mother and then 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary, Westboro Baptist member Shirley Phelps-Roper posted a message on Twitter that the group would "sing praise to God for the glory of his work in executing his judgment."

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Pictures and video of President Obama landing in Connecticut.

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The Stratford High School Class of 2003 has established a memorial fund for their former classmate Victoria "Vicki" Soto, who died in the mass shooting Friday at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown.

Upon hearing the first rounds of gunfire in an adjacent classroom, the 27-year-old teacher scrambled to hide her first-grade students, 15 or 16 kids, before the gunman made his way to her room. After entering the room, the shooter confronted and killed Soto but the students were saved because the gunman did not see them in the room.

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Police have ID'd Adam Lanza as the shooter and Nancy as the final victim, according to Newtown.Patch

Also in that link, memories of Adam from a neighbor: “He was the quiet kid at the bus stop,” he said. “I’d say, ‘Hi,’ and he’d say, ‘Hey,’ back and that was the extent of it.”

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