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Mourners gather for a vigil service at St. Rose of Lima Roman Catholic Church Friday night.
Associated Press/Photo by Andrew Gombert (pool)
Mourners gather for a vigil service at St. Rose of Lima Roman Catholic Church Friday night.

Newtown covered in ashes

Shooting | A Connecticut town mourns after Friday’s mass shooting at an elementary school

The horrific mass shooting Friday morning dropped grief over Newtown, Conn., like a thick cloth. A Handel's Messiah concert Friday night, postponed. A trombone concert, canceled. The Starbucks where one of the murdered teachers worked part-time closed Saturday. The crime immobilized the small, peaceful town and the surrounding area. 

At about 9:30 a.m. Friday, a shooter, whom police identified as 20-year-old Adam Lanza, forced his way into Sandy Hook Elementary School. He slaughtered the principal, Dawn Hochsprung, and the school psychologist, Mary Sherlach, and then turned his gun or guns on two classrooms full of children.

The shooter executed 20 first graders and kindergartners, eight boys and 12 girls, all age 6 or 7, and their teachers, including first grade teacher Vicki Soto, 27. According to the New York Daily News, police told Soto’s family that her body was found shielding her students in a closet, though six of her students were killed.

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The rest of the victims were killed in the kindergarten classroom next door. Lanza then killed himself. Police later found the shooter’s mother, Nancy Lanza, murdered in her home nearby. For now, no one knows why Adam Lanza did it all.

Newtown is a town of 27,000 people. One family’s loss in the tight-knit community sends immediate ripples. Newtown’s police spokesman Lt. George Sinko said he couldn’t remember a murder in the town in the last decade.

Signs for prayer meetings popped up around town on Friday. Newtown Bible Church, whose members’ children were spared, but whose friends and neighbors were not, immediately began offering grief counseling and a special prayer meeting. Numerous churches held vigils. St. Rosa of Lima Catholic Church held a service that overflowed with people Friday night where Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy spoke. 

“Many of us today and in the coming days will rely on that which we have taught and that which we inherently believe,” he said. “That there is faith for a reason. And that faith itself is God’s gift to all of us.” 

Outside the church, parishioners sang “Silent Night.” “Holy infant, so tender and mild, sleep in heavenly peace,” they intoned.

Vicki Soto, the teacher who was killed while she reportedly shielded her students, was a member of The Lordship Community Church in Stratford, Conn. The church has set up a fund for her family, and scheduled a prayer service for Saturday night.

Soto’s story of heroism repeats itself among the other teachers and administrators. Police told relatives that special education teacher Anne Marie Murphy was found dead shielding her students. Many believe that Hochsprung, the principal, sacrificed her life to turn on the school’s PA system so teachers would hear that a shooter was in the building.

On Saturday afternoon, the Newtown police released the full list of victims, along with their ages, as confirmed by the medical examiner:

Charlotte Bacon, 6
Daniel Barden, 7
Olivia Engel, 6
Josephine Gay, 7
Ana Marquez-Greene, 6
Dylan Hockley, 6
Madeline Hsu, 6
Catherine Hubbard, 6
Chase Kowalski, 7
Jesse Lewis, 6
James Mattioli, 6
Grace McDonnell, 7
Emile Parker, 6
Jack Pinto, 6
Noah Pozner, 6
Caroline Previdi, 6
Jessica Rekos, 6
Avielle Richman, 6
Benjamin Wheeler, 6
Allison Wyatt, 6
Rachel Davino, 29
Dawn Hochsprung, 47
Anne Marie Murphy, 52
Lauren Rousseau, 30
Mary Sherlach, 56
Victoria Soto, 27

Emily Belz
Emily Belz

Emily, who has covered everything from political infighting to pet salons for The Indianapolis Star, The Hill, and the New York Daily News, reports for WORLD from New York City. Follow Emily on Twitter @emzleb.

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