When Janet Vollmer, a Sandy Hook Elementary School kindergarten teacher, returned to her Liberty Street home around 4 p.m. Friday, her grown son and a nearby neighbor were there to greet her. The neighbor, who did not want to be identified, ran over as soon as she saw Vollmer and hugged her. The neighbor said she heard about the shooting at work and, “I kept hearing it might have been a kindergarten teacher. I was hoping it wasn’t her. I was shaking at work.”
When she learned that Vollmer was OK, “I was so relieved. This is too close to home,” she said.
The neighbor said she was so sad for all the families whose children died nine days before Christmas.
One of Vollmer’s adult sons came to the door of her home and said she didn’t want to talk.
Students at nearby Newtown High School on Berkshire Road were stunned Friday when they learned of the shootings.
Senior Alex Buttery said when she learned the shootings had taken place on Dickinson Drive — where the school is located — “I immediately thought of Sandy Hook,” she said. “It’s devastating.”
Buttery, walking out of the school Friday afternoon with her friend Clare Donnelly, said she’d cried a lot today.
Donnelly said “it’s hard to wrap your head around” the shooting. “It’s difficult to watch [young children] go through this.”
Junior Renee Henriques said she was “shocked, speechless” by the shootings.
Buttery said she had been texting back and forth with her mother all day. “I went there,” she said of Sandy Hook School. “I know the teachers. I’m just wondering who it is.” Her mother, she said, was very emotional. They “know a lot of neighbors who go to Sandy Hook.”
NHS student Stefanie Carr said she was having a hard time processing what had happened. “I just couldn’t process how I felt. I’m still trying to get over it.”
All of the students had the same question: “Why someone would do that to the children?”
James Dietter, 26, lives in the Yogananda neighborhood where a person was found dead. His mother works in the school system.
"This is the idyllic New England hamlet … there was a bit of a magical insulation or feeling that tragedy won't happen here. Now it has, and, unfortunately, I think it is going to define this town."
Several news outlets, including The Associated Press and CNN, initially identified the shooter as his older brother, Ryan Lanza.
CNN is no longer identifying the shooter.
One law enforcement official said Ryan Lanza had been extremely cooperative, was not believed to have any involvement in the rampage and was not under arrest or in custody, but investigators were still searching his computers and phone records. Ryan Lanza told law enforcement he had not been in touch with his brother since about 2010.
Marsha Moskowitz, a former bus driver in town, remembered the Lanza boys.
“You know the trouble kids, and you figure, ‘Pff, that one’s going to be trouble.’ But I never would have thought that about them,” she said.
Moskowitz ran into the boys’ mother a couple of weeks ago and exchanged peasantries, she said.