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13 days to Christmas: Day evil visited Connecticut community

20 children and six adults were killed when the shooter opened fire Friday morning at the school in a rampage that shattered the quiet of this southern New England town and left a nation reeling over the number of young lives lost.

There were more questions than answers about the possible motive of the shooter, identified by three law enforcement officials as 20-year-old Adam Lanza — who authorities said appeared to have taken his own life, turning his gun on himself in the school. When Lanza was found dead in a hallway of a self-inflicted gunshot wound — he was carrying his brother Ryan Lanza’s identification, which initially led to confusion about his identity, police said.

Police said Lanza, who grew up in the tight-knit community of 27,000, killed his mother at her Newtown residence before going to the school where he primarily targeted two classrooms.

Within minutes, Lanza killed 26 people with chilling efficiency, leaving only one injured survivor, according to Lt. J. Paul Vance, a spokesman for the Connecticut State Police. Among the adults killed were Dawn Hochsprung, the school’s beloved principal, and school psychologist Mary Sherlach.

“Stuff like this does not happen in Newtown,” roughly 60 miles northeast of New York City, said Renee Burn, a local teacher at another school in town.

The number of young victims, between the ages of 5 and 10, sent shockwaves across the nation.

Obama wept
“They had their entire lives ahead of them: birthdays, graduations, weddings, kids of their own,” President Barack Obama said, wiping away tears.

In a televised address from the White House, the president recalled shootings this year at an Oregon mall, a Wisconsin Sikh temple and a Colorado movie theater.

“Our hearts are broken today, for the parents, grandparents, sisters and brothers of these children, and for the families of the adults who were lost. We are going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of politics,” he said.

The president stopped short of calling for gun control measures, though the White House said later Obama supports a reinstatement of a federal ban on assault weapons.

With the death toll at 26, the massacre in Newtown is the second-deadliest school shooting in U.S. history, behind the 2007 Virginia Tech mass shooting that left 32 dead.

Three weapons were recovered from the school: a semi-automatic .223 caliber rifle made by Bushmaster found in a car in the school parking lot, and two pistols made by Glock and a Sig Sauer found with Lanza’s body, a law enforcement official familiar with the investigation said, on condition of anonymity.

The weapons were legally purchased by Lanza’s mother, said the official, who was not authorised to release details of the case to the media.

After killing his mother, investigators believe Lanza took her guns and made his way to the elementary school. There, dressed in black fatigues and a military vest, according to a law enforcement official, Lanza reportedly targeted two classrooms of kindergartners and first-graders.

Students described being ushered into bathrooms and closets by teachers after hearing the first shots.

It sounded like “pops, gunshots,” Janet Vollmer, a kindergarten teacher, said.

Vollmer locked her classroom doors, covered the windows and moved her 19 pupils toward the back of the room.

“We’re going over in a safe area,” she told the 5-year-olds. Then, she opened a book and started to read.

Outside Vollmer’s classroom, a gunman was moving through the hallway of the one-story building.

In the first few minutes, the gunman is believed to have shot the principal, Hochsprung, and the school’s psychologist, Sherlach.

One parent who was at the school in a meeting with Hochsprung, Sherlach and the vice principal said she heard a “pop, pop, pop.” All three left the room and went into the hall to see what was happening. The parent ducked under the table and called 911.

“I cowered,” she told CNN. The gunman “must have shot a hundred rounds.”

Inside a classroom, Vollmer was still reading to the children when police officers banged on the locked door.

The kindergartners were told to line up and cover their eyes as they were led by police past bodies, presumably of their fellow schoolmates, Vollmer said.

‘Hero’ teachers lose lives too
Three teachers murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary School all died heroes as they attempted to save their young pupils from a gunman they recognised as the son of one of the school’s kindergarten teachers.

Authorities have identified Principal Dawn Hochsprung, 47, school psychologist Mary Sherlach, 56, and 27-year-old Victoria Soto, a young first grade teacher, as three of the eight adults found dead at the school on Friday.

“She died protecting the children that she adored so much. It’s just incredibly shocking,’’ said Gerald Stomski, first selectman in Woodbury, where Hochsprung lived. Hochsprung had been the principal in the Bethlehem and Woodbury school district before taking the job in Newtown two years ago.

It was also reported that Miss Soto sacrificed herself to save her students – throwing her body in front of the young children.

A case for gun control
With the latest shooting in the US, analysts maintain that attention could be focused on gun control laws. Polls show Americans are open to limited forms of gun control.

Will the heartbreaking school shooting in Newtown, Conn., lead to more support for gun control measures in the US? That’s certainly possible. The deaths of so many innocent children, so young, are likely to earn the crime a place on a tragic roll call of recent American history. Columbine. Virginia Tech., Tucson, Arizona, Aurora, Colorado and now Newtown.

Certainly those who have long pushed for greater control on gun ownership see the awful event as yet another teaching moment to try and sway public opinion to their side.

“How young do the victims have to be and how many children need to die before we stop the proliferation of guns in our nation?” said Marion Wright Edelman, chairman of the Children’s Defense Fund, in a statement Friday afternoon.

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