Prin­ci­pal among those killed


Austin American-Statesman - - THE SECOND FRONT - A

New­town home. Early re­ports that she had been a part-time teacher at the school were later ques­tioned, leav­ing the tie, if any, be­tween her and Sandy Hook, where he son had been a stu­dent, un­clear.

The ram­page, coming less than two weeks be­fore Christ­mas, was the na­tion’s sec­ond-dead­li­est school shoot­ing, ex­ceeded only by the 2007 Vir­ginia Tech mas­sacre, in which a gun­man killed 32 peo­ple and then him­self.

The gun­man was chill­ingly ac­cu­rate. A spokesman for the state po­lice said all but one of the peo­ple shot had died, sug­gest­ing the gun­man fired at point-blank range.

One law en­force­ment of­fi­cial said the shoot­ings oc­curred in two class­rooms in one por­tion of the school. The prin­ci­pal was among the dead.

Law en­force­ment of­fi­cials of­fered no hint of what mo­ti­vated Lanza. One of­fi­cial said that in­ves­ti­ga­tors were ask­ing why — if Lanza’s rage was di­rected mainly to­ward his mother, as ap­peared to be the case — he had opened fire on other peo­ple’s chil­dren.

FBI agents in­ter­viewed his brother, Ryan, in Hobo­ken, N.J. His fa­ther, Peter, who was di­vorced from Nancy Lanza, was also ex­pected to be ques­tioned, one of­fi­cial said.

New­town was plunged into mourn­ing. Stunned res­i­dents at­tended four me­mo­rial ser­vices in the town Fri­day evening as de­tec­tives con­tin­ued the search for clues.

Mau­reen Kerins, a hospi­tal nurse who lives near the school, learned of the shoot­ings from tele­vi­sion and hur­ried to the scene to see if she could help.

“I stood out­side wait­ing to go in, but a po­lice of­fi­cer came out and said they didn’t need any nurses, so I knew it wasn’t good,” Kerins said.

In the cold light of Fri­day morn­ing, faces had told the story out­side the stricken school. There were the fright­ened faces of chil­dren who were cry­ing as they were led out in a line. There were the grim faces of three women who emerged with their arms around one an­other. There were the re­lieved-look­ing faces of a cou­ple and a lit­tle girl in a light blue jacket, rid­ing high on her fa­ther’s shoul­ders.

The shoot­ings set off a tide of an­guish na­tion­wide. In Illi­nois and Ge­or­gia, flags were low­ered to half-staff in me­mory of the vic­tims. At the White House, Pres­i­dent Barack Obama strug­gled to read a state­ment in the brief­ing room.

“Our hearts are bro­ken to­day,” Obama said, adding that his first re­ac­tion was not as a pres­i­dent but as a par­ent. “I know there is not a par­ent in Amer­ica who does not feel the same over­whelm­ing grief that I do.”

He called the vic­tims “beau­ti­ful lit­tle kids.”

“They had their en­tire lives ahead of them: birthdays, grad­u­a­tions, wed­dings, kids of their own,” he said.

Then the pres­i­dent reached up to the cor­ner of one eye.

Obama called for “mean­ing­ful ac­tion” to stop such shoot­ings, but he did not spell out de­tails.

Gov. Dan­nel P. Malloy of Con­necti­cut, who went to New­town, called the shoot­ings “a tragedy of un­speak­able terms.”

“Evil vis­ited this com­mu­nity to­day,” he said.

Lt. J. Paul Vance, a spokesman for the Con­necti­cut State Po­lice, de­scribed “a very hor­rific and dif­fi­cult scene” at the school. It had a se­cu­rity pro­to­col that called for doors to be locked dur­ing the school day and for vis­i­tors to be checked on a video mon­i­tor in­side.

“You had to buzz in and out and the whole nine yards,” said a former chair­woman of the New­town Board of Ed­u­ca­tion, Lil­lian Bittman.

But the lock sys­tem did not go into ef­fect un­til 9:30 each morn­ing, ac­cord­ing to a let­ter sent to par­ents by the prin­ci­pal, Dawn Hochsprung, that was posted on sev­eral news web­sites. Hochsprung was among the dead, although no vic­tims’ names had been con­firmed by au­thor­i­ties.

Vance said the New­town po­lice had called for help from nearby po­lice de­part­ments and had im­me­di­ately be­gun a man­hunt, check­ing “ev­ery nook and cranny and ev­ery room.”

Vance said 18 young­sters were pro­nounced dead at the school and two oth­ers were taken to a hospi­tal where they were de­clared dead. All the adults who were killed at the school were pro­nounced dead there.

At the home of Hochsprung’s daugh­ter Cristina Hassinger, in Oakville, Conn., the fam­ily spent the af­ter­noon wait­ing for word.

“We’re look­ing for any hope,” said Ryan Hassinger, a son-in-law.

“I looked on Twit­ter and it says that she is passed,” Hassinger said. But he added that the fam­ily was “just wait­ing.”

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