The tragic shooting at the elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut left many victims and grieving families, but also several heroes who will be remembered for their courage and abnegation.
When Adam Lanza entered the Sandy Hook Elementary School with semi-automatic weapons and started to shoot small children, principal, Dawn Hochsprung, was in a meeting with a parent and senior staff. At the sound of gunshots everybody dived for cover, while Ms Hochsprung and the school’s psychologist, Mary Sherlach ran out to confront the shooter and shout at the others to lock the doors. Ms Hochsprung had the presence of mind to turn on the school intercom, so that teachers in each classroom could have time to take cover. Both Ms Hochsprung and Ms Sherlach, who was preparing to retire, were killed as they ran towards the danger.
“They didn’t think twice about confronting [him] or seeing what was going on,” said school therapist Diane Day, who was in the meeting.
By the time the killer entered Victoria Soto’s classroom, she has had time to hide her pupils in cupboards then tried to convince theLanza they were in a different part of the school. He didn’t bother to find the kids but instead he shot the 27-year-old teacher.
“I’m just proud that Vicki had the instincts to protect her kids from harm. It brings peace to know that Vicki was doing what she loved, protecting the children, and in our eyes she’s a hero,” said her cousin, Jim Wiltsie.
Maryrose Kristopik, a music teacher, hid her 20 students into a closet blocking the door with her own body. She told the children that they had to keep quiet as there was a bad person in the school and he wouldn’t know they were hiding there. Another teacher, Kaitlin Roig, huddled 15 children into a tiny bathroom and pulled a bookshelf across the door. She was so scared that when the police came she told them to put their badges under the door to be sure it was them. Unfortunately there were 20 children the school’s staff could not save and families who realized they would never see their beloved children again.
“All of them were hoping their child would be found OK. But when they gave out the actual death toll, they realised their child was gone,” said Monsignor Robert Weiss of Newtown’s St Rose of Lima Catholic church.