US school massacre: Angels who died... 12 girls, 8 boys, none older than 7
Twelve girls and eight boys. One had celebrated her seventh birthday just four days before her death. They included Charlotte and Jack, Noah and Grace.
The six-year-old was one of the victims in the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting in Newtown. (AP)
Dressed in "cute kid stuff," all 20 died when a heavily armed 20-year-old gunman forced his way into their school, Sandy Hook Elementary, and shot them and six women in an act of violence that has shattered their once-tranquil suburban town.
Emilie Alice Parker (AP)
"They were first-graders," said Connecticut Chief Medical Examiner Dr. H. Wayne Carver II, before releasing the names of all the victims of the school shootings on Saturday.
Asked to describe the attack, Carver, who oversaw the autopsies of all the victims and conducted many himself, called it "the worst I have seen."
Adam Lanza (AP)
The shooter, identified by law enforcement officials as Adam Lanza, killed his mother Nancy on Friday, then drove to the school where he gunned down another 26 people before taking his own life in one of the deadliest mass shootings in US history.
He fired a rifle, shooting his victims multiple times. Parents identified their children through pictures, a process intended to minimize their shock, Carver said.
Jillian Soto uses a phone to get information about her sister, Victoria Soto, a teacher at the Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown. (AP)
Members of the close-knit community went into public mourning on Saturday as the depth of the tragedy became clear.
"I don't know how to get through something like this," said Robbie Parker, a 30-year-old physician's assistant whose 6-year-old daughter Emilie was among the dead.
"My wife and I don't understand how to process this and how to get our lives going," Parker told reporters. The oldest of his three kids, Emilie, "could just light up a room," he said.
A glimpse of some of those who died:
Olivia Engel, 6, student
The images of Olivia Engel will live far beyond her short lifetime.
There she is, visiting with Santa Claus, or feasting on a slice of birthday cake. There's the one of her swinging a pink baseball bat, and another posing on a boat. In some, she models a pretty white dress, in others she makes a silly face.
Dan Merton, a longtime friend of the girl's family, says he could never forget the child, and he has much to say when he thinks of her.
"She loved attention," he said. "She had perfect manners, perfect table manners. She was the teacher's pet, the line leader."
On Friday, Merton said, she was simply excited to go to school and return home and make a gingerbread house.
"Her only crime," he said, "is being a wiggly, smiley 6-year-old."
Ana Marquez-Greene, 6, student
A year ago, 6-year-old Ana Marquez-Greene was reveling in holiday celebrations with her extended family on her first trip to Puerto Rico. This year will be heartbreakingly different.
The girl's grandmother, Elba Marquez, said the child's family moved to Connecticut just two months ago, drawn from Canada, in part, by Sandy Hook's pristine reputation. The grandmother's brother, Jorge Marquez, is mayor of a Puerto Rican town and said the child's 9-year-old brother was also at the school, but escaped safely.
Elba Marquez had just visited the new home over Thanksgiving and finds herself perplexed by what happened.
"It was a beautiful place, just beautiful," she said. "What happened does not match up with the place where they live."
Jorge Marquez confirmed the girl's father is saxophonist Jimmy Greene, who wrote on Facebook that he was trying to "work through this nightmare."
"As much as she's needed here and missed by her mother, brother and me, Ana beat us all to paradise. I love you sweetie girl," he wrote.
Chase Kowalski, 7, student
Chase Kowalski was always outside, playing in the backyard, riding his bicycle. Just last week, he was visiting neighbor Kevin Grimes, telling him about completing — and winning — his first mini-triathlon.
"You couldn't think of a better child," Grimes said.
Grimes' own five children all attended Sandy Hook, too. Cars lined up outside the Kowalski's ranch home Saturday, and a state trooper's car idled in the driveway. Grimes spoke of the boy only in the present tense.
Emilie Parker, 6, student
Quick to cheer up those in need of a smile, Emilie Parker never missed a chance to draw a picture or make a card.
Her father, Robbie Parker, fought back tears as he described the beautiful, blonde, always-smiling girl who loved to try new things, except food.
Parker, one of the first parents to publicly talk about his loss, expressed no animosity for the gunman, even as he struggled to explain the death to his other two children, ages 3 and 4. He's sustained by the fact that the world is better for having had Emilie in it.
"I'm so blessed to be her dad," he said.
Lauren Gabrielle Rousseau, 30, teacher
Lauren Rousseau had spent years working as a substitute teacher and doing other jobs. So she was thrilled when she finally realized her goal this fall to become a full-time teacher at Sandy Hook.
Her mother, Teresa Rousseau, a copy editor at the Danbury News-Times, released a statement Saturday that said state police told them just after midnight that she was among the victims.
"Lauren wanted to be a teacher from before she even went to kindergarten," she said. "We will miss her terribly and will take comfort knowing that she had achieved that dream."
Her mother said she was thrilled to get the job.
"It was the best year of her life," she told the paper.
Rousseau has been called gentle, spirited and active. She had planned to see "The Hobbit" with her boyfriend Friday and had baked cupcakes for a party they were to attend afterward. She was born in Danbury, attended Danbury High, college at the University of Connecticut and graduate school at the University of Bridgeport.
She was a lover of music, dance and theater.
"I'm used to having people die who are older," her mother said, "not the person whose room is up over the kitchen."
Anne Marie Murphy, 52, teacher
A happy soul. A good mother, wife and daughter. Artistic, fun-loving, witty and hardworking.
Remembering their daughter, Anne Marie Murphy, her parents had no shortage of adjectives to offer Newsday. When news of the shooting broke, Hugh and Alice McGowan waited for word of their daughter as hour by hour ticked by. And then it came.
Authorities told the couple their daughter was a hero who helped shield some of her students from the rain of bullets. As the grim news arrived, the victim's mother reached for her rosary.
"You don't expect your daughter to be murdered," her father told the newspaper. "It happens on TV. It happens elsewhere."
Nancy Lanza, 52, gunman's mother
She was known before simply for the game nights she hosted and the holiday decorations she put up at her house. Now Nancy Lanza is being called the mother of a killer and his first victim.
Authorities say Lanza's 20-year-old son Adam gunned his mother down before killing 26 others at Sandy Hook. The two shared a home in a well-to-do Newtown neighborhood, but details were slow to emerge of who she was and what might have led her son to carry out such horror.
Court records show she and her ex-husband, Peter Lanza, filed for divorce in 2008. He lives in Stamford and is a tax director at General Electric. It wasn't clear whether Nancy Lanza had worked. A neighbor, Rhonda Cullens, said she knew Nancy Lanza from get-togethers she had hosted to play Bunco, a dice game. She said her neighbor had enjoyed gardening.
"She was a very nice lady," Cullens said. "She was just like all the rest of us in the neighborhood, just a regular person."
Police did not officially identify Lanza or his mother, but his father on Saturday issued a statement saying he too was struggling to understand his son's actions.
"No words can truly express how heartbroken we are," Peter Lanza said.
"We are in a state of disbelief and trying to find whatever answers we can."
While Americans have seen many mass shootings in the past decades, the victims have rarely been so young. On Saturday, some Democratic lawmakers called for sweeping new gun-control measures, a move certain to run up against stiff opposition from the nation's powerful pro-gun lobby.
President Barack Obama plans to travel to the affluent suburb of 27,000 people about 80 miles (130 km) from New York City on Sunday to meet with victims' families and speak at a vigil at 7 p.m. local time (0000 GMT), the White House said in a statement.
Other victims’ names are:
Rachel Davino, 29; Anne Marie Murphy, 25; Charlotte, 6; Daniel, 7; Olivia, 6; Josephine, 7; Ana, 6; Dylan, 6; Madeleine, 6; Catherine, 6; Chase, 7; Jesse, 6; James, 6; Grace, 7; Anne Marie Murphy, 52; Jack, 6; Noah, 6; Caroline, 6; Jessica, 6; Avielle, 6; Benjamin, 6; Allison, 6.
MISSING FROM THE NATIVITY
Townsfolk packed into the church memorial services held throughout the day. On Saturday night, the pews at St. Rose of Lima were packed with parishioners standing at the rear of the church for a Nativity concert.
There was a live cow, a donkey and a camel. But at least one person was missing - 6-year-old Olivia Engel, who was to have had a role.
"She was supposed to be an angel in the play," said Reverend Robert Weiss. "Now she's an angel up in heaven."
Town fire officials set up 26 Christmas trees, decorated with stuffed animals, near the school as a memorial to the victims - many of whom were children who may have been hoping for such toys as their own holiday presents.
"Those innocent little boys and girls were taken from their families far too soon," said Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy. "Let us all hope and pray those children are now in a place where that innocence will always be protected."
One of the victims, Josephine Gay, had celebrated her seventh birthday on Tuesday.
Shaul Praver said he had spent time with Veronika Pozner, whose 6-year-old son Noah, was among the victims.
"We encouraged her to focus on her other four children that need her and not to try to plan out the rest of her life," Praver said.
The adult victims, some of whom died defending the students, ranged in age from 27 to 56. Carver, the medical examiner, said all the bodies had examined had been shot with a rifle. He said he and his staff had not yet examined the shooter or his mother.
Police earlier said they had assembled "some very good evidence" on the killer's motives.
"Our investigators at the crime scene ... did produce some very good evidence in this investigation that our investigators will be able to use in, hopefully, painting the complete picture as to how - and more importantly why - this occurred," Connecticut State Police Lieutenant Paul Vance told reporters.
Shooter Adam Lanza had struggled at times to fit in in his suburban community and his mother Nancy pulled him out of school for several years, to home-school him, said Louise Tambascio, the owner of My Place Restaurant, where his mother was a long-time patron.
Nancy Lanza legally owned a Sig Sauer and a Glock, both handguns commonly used by police, and a military-style Bushmaster .223 M4 carbine, according to law enforcement officials, who also said they believed Adam Lanza used at least some of those weapons.
The death toll exceeded that of one of the most notorious U.S. school shootings, the 1999 rampage at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, where two teenagers killed 13 students and staff before fatally shooting themselves.
At Virginia Tech, a Blacksburg, Virginia university where in 2007 a gunman killed 32 people in the deadliest school shooting in US history, an announcer extended sympathies to the residents of Newtown before a basketball game.
"This campus ... shares a deep sense of grief," the announcer said.
"We open our hearts to that community."
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