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Routine morning, then shots and unthinkable terror

December 15, 2012 • National News


In this photo provided by the Newtown Bee, a police officer leads two women and a child from Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., where a gunman opened fire, killing 26 people, including 20 children, Friday, Dec. 14, 2012. (AP Photo/Newtown Bee, Shannon Hicks) MANDATORY CREDIT: NEWTOWN BEE, SHANNON HICKS

NEWTOWN, Conn. (AP) — Inside the four-bedroom colonial set on a small rise, Nancy Lanza was already dead. But it was early yet, and it would be hours before her body was found — time enough for her son to unleash a slaughter.

For now, though, all seemed idyllic in this 300-year-old town under crystalline skies.

Adam Lanza, 20 years old, fascinated by computers and recalled by former classmates as painfully awkward, left the house in his mother’s car and drove past fine old churches and towering trees. It was the holiday season, and lawns were decorated with lights and electric reindeer. It was just five miles from home to Sandy Hook Elementary, where hallways and classrooms rang with talk of Hannukah and Christmas.

Inside the music room, a group of fourth graders were watching the movie “The Nutcracker.”

Theodore Varga and some other teachers were meeting. Their students, the oldest kids in the school, were in specialty classes like gym and music. The glow remained from the previous night’s fourth-grade concert.

“It was a lovely day,” Varga said. “Everybody was joyful and cheerful. We were ending the week on a high note.”

The school appeared secure, it’s entrance monitored by closed-circuit camera and opened only when employees in the main office buzzed somebody in. But Lanza wasted no time, breaking through the window and opening the door.

And then, suddenly and unfathomably, gunshots rang out. “I can’t even remember how many,” Varga said.

Someone turned the loudspeaker on, so everyone in the building could hear what was happening in the office.

“You could hear the hysteria that was going on,” Varga said. “Whoever did that saved a lot of people. Everyone in the school was listening to the terror that was transpiring.”

The sounds reached a room where Principal Dawn Hochsprung and school therapist Diane Day along with a school psychologist, other staff members and a parent were gathered for a 9:30 meeting.

“We were there for about five minutes chatting, and we heard ‘Pop! Pop!, Pop!’” Day told The Wall Street Journal. “I went under the table.”

A custodian ran around, warning people there was a gunman, Varga said.

“He said, ‘Guys! Get down! Hide!’” Varga said.

Did he survive? The teacher did not know.

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