20 Children Among The Dead In Conn. Shooting

Audie Cornish talks to Joel Rose about the latest on the elementary school shooting in Newtown, Conn.

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

And I'm Robert Siegel.

As a country, we have been through this too many times - those the words today of President Obama, who wiped away tears as he spoke of the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. The shooting suspect died at the school. Federal law enforcement officials have identified him as Adam Lanza, 20 years old, of Newtown. He is believed to have shot and killed 26 people at Sandy Hook, 20 of them children. Here again, President Obama at the White House.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: They had their entire lives ahead of them - birthdays, graduations, weddings, kids of their own. Among the fallen were also teachers, men and women who devoted their lives to helping our children fulfill their dreams. So our hearts are broken today for the parents and grandparents, sisters and brothers of these little children and for the families of the adults who were lost.

CORNISH: Police say the shooting began at the school some time after nine this morning. The attack took place in two rooms in one section of the building. Three weapons were recovered from the scene, including a rifle. There's also another death, an adult found at the Lanza home also in Newtown. NPR has confirmed that Lanza's mother is among the dead.

SIEGEL: After the shooting started, second grade teacher Abbey Clements sheltered her students in the closet area of the classroom as they had practiced. She tried to keep them calm as the shooting continued. She read them books as they waited for help to arrive.

Speaking on member station KPCC earlier today, she described Sandy Hook Elementary as a special place.

ABBEY CLEMENTS: This school is truly phenomenal and the teachers are truly phenomenal and the parents are truly phenomenal, and that is the truth. I've never, and I say this all the time before this, been in a school where the community is this great, and I cannot understand what happened today.

SIEGEL: That's Sandy Hook teacher Abbey Clements speaking with member station KPCC's "AirTalk" today.

CORNISH: Joining us now from Newtown is WSHU's Craig LeMoult. And Craig, can you give us the latest on the investigation?

CRAIG LEMOULT, BYLINE: Well, as you just reported, they are now saying that it was Adam Lanza who was the shooter, that's a name that's been thrown around throughout much of the day, but the officials have been very hesitant to give a name. We're also waiting on the names of the victims. As you said, 20 children and six adults plus Adam Lanza, the shooter, as well. And we're looking for more information as well about the person who died in that other house, if that is connected, I believe, to this whole tragedy today. It's very unusual to have this many - any murders whatsoever. I spoke to a police official who said they hadn't had a murder here in at least ten years actually. So the fact that there was this terrible tragedy plus an additional one in a house is just shocking to everybody.

CORNISH: And I understand you've been on the scene since this morning. Tell us what it was like.

LEMOULT: Yeah. I arrived at the firehouse just around the corner from the elementary school this morning when we got word, and that scene was just one of gridlock. So many emergency vehicles that were there, you know, fire and police and ambulances, and then parents just ditching their cars and running to connect with their children. You know, I think that - what I saw was a whole lot of relief from the parents there, that they were reunited with their children safely. And then throughout the day, the press has been camped out at a parking lot of a park nearby getting those press conferences, some of which you just heard sound from, the police and the governor.

CORNISH: Now Craig, you've just emerged from an evening prayer vigil at Grace Christian Fellowship, in Newtown. Share with us what you saw there.

LEMOULT: Yeah, I just went to this service. It was a beautiful service. I'd say there was about 60 people there and they were just praying for the families of those who are lost, and it was a candlelight vigil that they did. And everyone lit candles as they sang "Amazing Grace" and other songs as well. It was a really emotional scene.

CORNISH: Can you tell us about the message from the pulpit?

LEMOULT: Yes. Basically, they've been saying, really, that this - you can't blame God for this kind of thing. The minister, Sheila Fredericks, spoke to the congregation. Here's a little of what she had to say.

PASTOR SHEILA FREDERICKS: I don't think we could even imagine the pain - I can't even fathom or comprehend, you know, people say, I could empathize - I think: I don't think so. I don't think so. But we can pray.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Yes, we can.

FREDERICKS: And we can pray believing our prayers are going to bring to their lives what nothing else can at this disastrous time in their life.

CORNISH: Craig, were you able to speak with anyone who attended the vigil?

LEMOULT: I did. I spoke with several people who were at the service afterwards, and some of them told me that they just moved to - one person in particular had moved only months ago to this neighborhood. And they said they did it because of the safe and beautiful neighborhood. And some other people I spoke with really seemed to be taking the minister's words to heart. I spoke with Debbie Brenner(ph) and here's what she told me.

DEBBIE BRENNER: If you believe in God you have to believe in evil as well, and that's what did this today. And God is what's going to help the people.

CORNISH: So Craig, also, could you give us a little more sense of the town in terms of how people have been reacting more broadly?

LEMOULT: I think it's just shock and disbelief. I think, you know, waiting around all day long today, I feel like everybody that I was talking to just didn't want to believe that the number was as high as we were hearing initial reports from. And horribly we did get the confirmation that that was the case. You know, I think that this town is going to be pulling together over the next few days and there's going to be a remarkable scene after scene after scene with so many memorial services and funerals and wakes, it's going to be a lot for this town to get through. It's a very small tight-knit community and somehow they're going to pull through.

CORNISH: WSHU's Craig LeMoult. Craig, thank you for your reporting.

LEMOULT: No problem.

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