As residents of Newtown, Conn., awaited the release Wednesday of 911 records from the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre a year ago, the city’s top elected official said their unsealing would “create a new layer of pain” for the city.
“Imagine yourself as a parent of a child who was killed, or a family member of one of the six educators,” First Selectman Pat Llodra said in a statement hours before the police complied with a judge's order to make the recordings public.
The Associated Press, which led the 11-month battle to make the recordings public, reported Wednesday that a review of them showed that dispatchers responded calmly and assured callers trapped in the school that help was on the way. The dispatchers also urged people inside the school to take cover and asked about the condition of children with them, AP reported.
Twenty first-graders and six school employees were killed when 20-year-old Adam Lanza shot his way into the school the morning of Dec. 14. Lanza had shot his mother, Nancy, to death earlier in the day in their Newtown home, and he committed suicide in the school.
The state’s attorney for the Danbury region, Stephen Sedensky III, sought to keep the recordings of the 911 calls sealed, but a judge ruled last month that he had no legal standing to do so because 911 calls are public record under the state’s Freedom of Information Act.
Nonetheless, many Newtown residents have said the calls should remain sealed out of sensitivity to families of the victims, and to survivors whose voices might be recognizable on the 911 calls. They also argue there is nothing to gain by making the calls public, now that the investigation into the massacre is closed.
Llodra, who had initially fought the calls’ release, recently conceded that details of them were certain to leak out, so it was best to release them. But in her comments Wednesday, she reiterated her feeling that there was “little public good” that could come of the move.
“Imagine yourself as a teacher or staff member in that building desperate to save the lives of children. Imagine you are the parent of a child who was able to escape,” she said. “Then ask yourself, media person, what is the public good and how do I balance that against the hurt?”
In his ruling ordering the records’ release, Bridgeport Superior Court Judge Eliot Prescott said the release could help in a number of ways, including showing the professionalism of the first responders and pointing to anything that might be done differently in future emergencies.