11:27 PM EST, December 15, 2012
Killed in Friday's horrific shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School were 20 children, ages 6 and 7, and six adults. In the day since the worst massacre at a primary school in the country's history, stories of heroism in the face of death and of young lives lost are beginning to emerge.
One teacher hid her students just before the suspected gunman, Adam Lanza, entered the classroom and shot her.
Throughout Saturday, tributes to the children who lost their lives even before they had much chance to experience life began appearing on Facebook. In a press conference, one father recounted how the daughter he lost often thought of others, making them cards when they were sad. Families who lost loved ones turned to family, friends and their faith for strength.
Emilie Parker was a "bright," avid artist who acted as a mentor to her 3- and 4-year-old sisters, her father, Robbie Parker, recalled Saturday.
"Emily's laughter was infectious and all those who met her would agree this world is a better place because she has been in it," Parker, 30, told reporters in Newtown. "She was beautiful; she was blond, always smiling. She was the type of person that could just light up a room."
Emilie taught her younger sisters to read, dance and "find the simple joys of life," Parker said. Her siblings looked up to her and leaned on her for comfort.
Emilie was compassionate, Parker said, and loved to create cards for others. One "special card" she made was even placed in her grandfather's casket.
"She always had something kind to say about anybody, and her love and the strength she gave us and the example she showed us is remarkable," he said.
The last conversation Parker said he had with Emilie was Friday morning, in Portuguese. He had been teaching her the language.
"I was leaving for work," he said. "She told me good morning. She asked how I was doing. … She told me she loved me. I gave her a kiss and I was out the door."
Parker expressed sympathy for the other families and said he's sought strength through his family and his faith.
"She is an incredible person," he said of Emilie, "and I'm so blessed to be her dad."
Ana Grace Marquez-Greene
Ana Grace Marquez-Greene, 6, daughter of jazz musician and teacher Jimmy Greene, 37, and his wife Nelba Marquez Greene, died in the shootings while her older brother Isaiah, also at the school, escaped harm.
In a Courant story May 17, jazz writer Owen McNally interviewed Greene, a Bloomfield High School and Hartt School graduate, about his return to Connecticut, after three years teaching at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, Canada. He took the job of assistant coordinator of jazz studies at Western Connecticut State University in Danbury.
The couple, high school sweethearts, said they chose Newtown because it was close to Greene's job and to the music scene in New York City, where Greene is in demand as a saxophone and flute player, and as a composer and arranger.
In 2009, Jimmy Greene included a song, "Ana Grace," about his daughter on the album, "Mission Statement."
The Ottawa Citizen website posted a Facebook message from Greene: "Thank you for all of your prayers and kind words of support. As we work through this nightmare, we're reminded how much we're loved and supported on this earth and by our Father in heaven. 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."
— Donna Larcen, Owen McNally
Olivia Rose Engel
On the "Friends of the Engel Family Fund" Facebook page, there were photos of Olivia Rose Engel, 6, sitting behind the steering wheel of a boat with sunglasses, smiling. Another showed her wearing a set of wings, holding a golden star over her head.
Friends and family members said Olivia was a wonderful big sister to her 3 1/2-year-old brother, loved school and was looking forward to a full week of Christmas crafts. The energetic girl took ballet and music lessons, loved to play with the family dog, Petey, liked pink and purple and was active in the St. Rose of Lima Church in town — where she was to be an angel in the Nativity play that had been scheduled for Saturday night.
The Facebook page, posted at 11 a.m. Saturday up to honor Olivia and raise money for the family, had 4,000 likes by mid-evening.
A family member serving as spokesman for Olivia's parents, Brian and Shannon Engel, said he had been communicating with the family by text messages since yesterday, asking what he and other could do to help.
"It's the same message," John Engel said. "Just pray for us."
Permanent substitute teacher
Things were looking up for Lauren Rousseau this year: She had a new boyfriend and she landed a permanent substitute teacher job at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
For years, Rousseau, 30, had worked as substitute teacher and now she was one her way in her career, one that Lauren had aspired to even before she herself entered kindergarten.
"We will miss her terribly and will take comfort knowing that she had achieved that dream," Teresa Rousseau, her mother, said.
Bill Leukhardt, Teresa Rousseau's longtime partner, said Saturday that the family learned at home at 1 a.m. that Lauren had died. The family hasn't been given any other information on the circumstances of her death, Leukhardt said.
"We're at the numb stage right now," said Leukhardt, a journalist at The Courant.
As a permanent substitute, Lauren Rousseau traveled from classroom to classroom as she was needed.
"We don't know what put her in harm's way," Leukhardt said. "She didn't have a set gig. We don't know where she was. All we know is that she is dead."
A graduate of the University of Connecticut, Lauren was an avid fan of the women's basketball team, sometimes going to games.
"She was always on social media talking," Leukhardt said. "She really liked going to Broadway shows."
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.
— Associated Press
First grade teacher
Victoria Soto, 27, was a teacher in Room 10 right next to where the shooting began. Soto hid her students, some in a bathroom. By thinking quickly, she is credited with saving the 15 or 16 children in her class.
Lanza, according to sources familiar with the investigation, walked in, shot her and went back into the hallway looking for another class. The source said there's no doubt the suspect would have fired at more students if he had seen them.
By mid-afternoon, a Facebook page "RIP Sandy Hook Elementary School Children" had a post in memory of Soto with 7,572 likes by 11 a.m. "My heart goes out to your family for their heartbreak. You beautiful hero are now surrounded by the 20 little angels, little stars that now and forever will shine above us. RIP and thank you," one of them read.
"I'm so proud of her. Because of what she did, there are parents who can have Christmas with their children," childhood friend Jessica Zrallack said at a vigil outside Stratford town hall on Saturday, shivering in the middle of the somber crowd. "She's a real hero. I wouldn't have expected anything less of her. I don't think there's one person who could say anything bad about her."
"We lost a very special person. She was living her dream – she wanted to be a teacher, but look at the price she paid for it," Zrallack said.
"She was always a good person. I remember her back to first grade. We were in the same class in fourth grade — the Soto family was like a second family to me, and she was very family involved," said Aquiles Rodriguez of New York City.
"When I heard about the shooting, I thought that was really bad. But when I heard the story that it was her," Rodriguez said, pausing and looking to the ground. "When I heard it was her, I just got on the train to come up and be with the fam."
Dawn L. Hochsprung
Hochsprung, 47, was hired to lead Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2010 and was praised as model educator.
Mary Ann Jacob, a clerk in the library, said Hochsprung was a friend and "a really amazing woman and a great leader.'
"This is a huge loss," Jacob told reporters Saturday in Newtown. "We had a book fair a few weeks ago and she dressed up as the reading fairy and had a dress on with lights on it, and went around the classroom putting reading fairy dust on all the kids. She was just an amazing woman."
She added: "She was strong and fun, and the kids loved her. She was a wonderful woman. When you think about how our school is going to recover, you think about it needing leadership, and she was the person who most could have done that."
At the start of this school year at Sandy Hook, which has students from kindergarten through fourth grade, she told the Newtown Bee that she was "really excited about bringing a readers workshop into the mainstream of the program. ... We capitalize on [students'] love of reading and use that passion to advance their achievement."
Hochsprung recently wrote to parents about the new security system that had been installed at the school.
— Kenneth R. GosselinMary Sherlach
Sherlach, 56, had worked at Sandy Hook Elementary School since 1994 and had served on numerous districtwide committees, including the conflict resolution committee, according to a biography on the Newtown Public Schools website.
Sherlach lived in Trumbull and was married with two adult daughters — one a high school chorus teacher in New Jersey and the other a graduate student at Georgetown University. Sherlach wrote in the biography that she and her husband, Bill, enjoyed traveling and spending time at their lake house in the Finger Lakes in upstate New York. Her hobbies were gardening, reading and the theater.
"I truly enjoy working with the SHS staff, parents and children and am always ready to assist in problem solving, intervention and prevention," she wrote.
Anne Marie Murphy
Remembering their 52-year-old daughter, Anne Marie Murphy, her parents had no shortage of adjectives to offer the Long Island newspaper Newsday. A happy soul. A good mother, wife and daughter. Artistic, fun-loving, witty and hardworking.
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."
— Associated Press
Copyright © 2015, The Hartford Courant