The following are excerpts taken from editorials, blogs and other comments on the shooting Friday at the elementary school in Newtown.

The school's principal and other staffers [reportedly] are among the dead in this western Connecticut town. Yet it's difficult to think about anything beyond those youngest victims. Children between the ages of 5 and 9. Little children who most certainly had "visions of sugar plums dancing in their heads" and thoughts of winter break — just one week away — pulling their attention from their studies. Children already looking forward to the day's final bell, the signal to a weekend of holiday parties, parades and pictures with Santa.

It will be a long time before those of us who watched the story unfold — who saw the twisted horror on the faces of the escaping students and the heartbreak on the faces of their parents — will feel any kindling of holiday spirit.

For now, we just numbly ask one another: When will this end?

Sharon Grigsby, editor, The Dallas Morning News,

Our children, especially our youngest children, are supposed to be safe. We devote enormous resources — and gladly so — as individuals, as families, as a society to make sure that our children are shielded from the hazards of life.

But then, in an instant, any sense of security is wiped away, all measures of protection exposed as incomplete.

And we are left stunned, saddened, and grasping for answers to the unanswerable.

I have no young children in my life these days — the four I helped raise are now grown — but I want in this moment to find a child to hug, to comfort, to laugh with, and to protect. I suspect I am not alone in that desire.

Tim Swarens, opinion editor, The Indianapolis Star,

There's also little doubt that the primary heroes of the day were schoolteachers — public school teachers — who hid children in closets and saved their lives, and who evacuated the children, leading them out through what had become a killing field in preposterously good order in what were the last hours of their childhoods, as one of the teachers said, with devastating accuracy, to a local TV station. There's also little doubt that the response of the local police and fire departments in a very small place was prompt and brave.

Charles P. Pierce, The Politics Blog, Esquire,

It's not right, fair or comprehensible — children being murdered by a man with two guns.

Newtown is about 25 minutes from where I live, but a million miles from what I ever expected could happen in these sleepy parts. Like many of us who move to these postcard New England towns, we choose them for their good schools and quaint living. We enjoy the hokey school plays, early morning soccer games and showing up as the mystery reader unannounced.

While the circumstances of today's killings haven't been sorted out yet, we're sure to hear all about the shooter's problems and our societal vulnerabilities. None are good enough to explain this.

Gerald McKinstry, Newsday editorial board,

The devastating news coming out of Connecticut makes the fights over Susan Rice or even the fiscal cliff seem small and unimportant.

As a father of two and a Connecticut native, the news coming out of myhomestate hits even harder.

Chris Cillizza, The Fix, The Washington Post,