As the horror of the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School unfolded Friday, scores of Newtown, CT, parents converged on the scene, hoping desperately to reunite with kids long held on lockdown inside.
Within hours, the parents of 20 children would face the unimaginable reality that their kids had perished during a late-morning shooting that has brought this normally quiet community to a shocked standstill.
Details on the gunman and police investigation on what led to the shooting are slowly emerging. State police said late Friday that they’re hoping to confirm the identities of the victims in this tragedy Saturday.
Meanwhile, Newtown parents and relatives of students at the school, now grappling with how to move forward, are reliving the horrifying emotions they experienced during the agonizing minutes and hours of every parent’s worst nightmare.
Jill Forrester was leaving the scene of the school at 11:15 a.m. with her daughter, a student.
“I'm a lot better now that I have her (my daughter) with me,” Forrester said. “My heart's breaking for everybody that's been affected by this. I was at work and got a call from my husband. ... I just immediately had a meltdown, not knowing a lot of information. Jumped in the car and drove about 100 mph down the highway. ... And she's fine. Thank God."
Patricia Pekar is a nanny for a 10-year-old girl named Jenna at the school who originally was thought to be missing. Pekar said she didn’t realize when she arrived at the chaotic, heart-wrenching scene that Jenna’s pediatrician already had picked the girl up from the school.
According to Pekar, Jenna’s own mother, who was in New Haven, CT, as the shooting unfolded, also didn’t know where the girl was because Janna forgot her mom’s cellphone number.
“Nobody knew,” Pekar said. “[We found out] just now, maybe 15 minutes ago, that she was fine. Her mother came in and I was crying. I had gotten the news that all those children had died. I thought Jenna was one of them. When you take care of other people's children, they're like your own. And you love them. I was really upset about the whole thing, and I'm still upset — there's so many families out there that have lost their children. And it's just not right that people can come into the school system and do this."
Multiple media outlets citing police sources have identified the shooter as 20-year-old Adam Lanza. Earlier in the day, police raided a home that tax records show is owned by the Lanza family, and Adam Lanza’s own brother had been detained by police in New Jersey. The family’s mother is said to have been among the adults shot and killed Friday.
Johnny Kerens told Patch that his mother Maureen, a nurse who was called to the scene, reached out to him.
“I was outside the school at around 9:30,” he said. “It was chaos. There were a lot of people running around, and I was just staying with the families, just waiting for the information. When my mom called, I ran down from my house, about half a mile away. I just wanted to make sure she was alright."
Maureen Kerens told Patch that she just could not make sense of the shooting.
“Why did 20 children have to lose their lives? It's just unbelievable,” she said.
Roy Low and his son—on lockdown for hours as the events unfolded, as were all public school students in Newtown—were near the scene at about 12 p.m.
Low told Patch that he had just picked his son up from middle school, after the boy had been huddled under his desk for three hours.
“All my kids [had gone] to this school. I was down here at 10 this morning,” Low said. “It was just devastating. The smell of brakes was all you smelled ... It's going to be a long time before I forget this. It's horrifying for these kids. You bring these kids into a nice town like this, you don't expect stuff like this to happen, you know?"