Newtown, Conn. • First, he killed his mother.
Nancy Lanza’s body was found later at their home on Yogananda Street in Newtown — after the carnage at Sandy Hook Elementary School; after a quiet New England town was scarred forever by unthinkable tragedy; after a nation seemingly inured to violence found itself stunned by the slaughter of innocents.
Nobody knows why 20-year-old Adam Lanza shot his mother, why he then took her guns to the school and murdered 20 children and six adults.
But on Friday he drove his mother’s car through this 300-year-old town with its fine old churches and towering trees and arrived at a school full of the season’s joy. Somehow, he got past a security door to a place where children should have been safe from harm.
Theodore Varga and other fourth-grade teachers were meeting; the glow remained from the previous night’s fourth-grade concert.
"It was a lovely day," Varga said. "Everybody was joyful and cheerful. We were ending the week on a high note."
And then, suddenly and unfathomably, gunshots rang out. "I can’t even remember how many," he said.
The fourth-graders, the oldest children in the school, were in specialty classes like gym and music. There was no lock on the meeting room door, so the teachers had to think about how to escape, knowing that their students were with other teachers.
Someone turned the loudspeaker on, so everyone could hear what was happening in the office.
"You could hear the hysteria that was going on," Varga said. "Whoever did that saved a lot of people. Everyone in the school was listening to the terror that was transpiring."
Gathered in another room for a 9:30 a.m. meeting were principal Dawn Hochsprung and school therapist Diane Day along with a school psychologist, other staff members and a parent. They were meeting to discuss a second-grader.
"We were there for about five minutes chatting, and we heard Pop! Pop!, Pop!" Day told The Wall Street Journal. "I went under the table."
But Hochsprung and the psychologist leaped out of their seats and ran out of the room, Day recalled. "They didn’t think twice about confronting or seeing what was going on," she said. Hochsprung was killed, and the psychologist was believed to have been killed as well.
A custodian ran around, warning people there was a gunman, Varga said.
"He said, ‘Guys! Get down! Hide!’" Varga said. "So he was actually a hero."
Did he survive? The teacher did not know.
Police radios crackled with first word of the shooting at 9:36, according to the New York Post.
"Sandy Hook School. Caller is indicating she thinks there’s someone shooting in the building," a Newtown dispatcher radioed, according to a tape posted on the paper’s website.
In a first-grade classroom, teacher Kaitlin Roig heard the shots. She immediately barricaded her 15 students into a tiny bathroom, sitting one of them on top of the toilet. She pulled a bookshelf across the door and locked it. She told the kids to be "absolutely quiet."Next Page >
Copyright 2013 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.