That was enough for some teachers to move their students away from doors and windows. In one room, a teacher locked her students in a closet, a move parents said saved their children’s lives. In another class, a teacher heard two blasts and ordered students into a corner.
Jessica Eisele, a fourth-grader at Sandy Hook, was in the gym when the shooting began. “On the loudspeaker, there was screaming and crying and she heard gunshots and then silence,” said her brother Nick, 15.
A janitor ran through the halls, shouting that a gunman was in the building. Witnesses heard dozens of pops coming from two classrooms and a hallway.
In the main office, the principal, vice principal and school psychologist heard the noise and stepped into the hall to investigate. A witness told CNN that the vice principal crawled back into the office after being shot in the foot. The principal and psychologist were later found dead.
Around Newtown, word spread by text, phone and the sound of dozens of emergency vehicles thundering toward the school. At Berkshire Motors, owner Jim Marcucilli thought he saw 40 police cruisers speed by. He had been working on a car, but its owner, frantic, demanded her keys back. “Oh, my God,” she said, “I have to get my kid.”
Joseph Wasik, 42, wasn’t too worried when his wife, Lynn, called to say she had received a text alert from the school. Like schools nationwide, Sandy Hook had been on lockdown before, always for events that turned out to be nothing. Earlier this year, reports of a loose bear seen in town had activated the system.
But when Wasik flipped open his laptop and saw a report of a school shooting, he got in his car and headed to Sandy Hook, where his daughter Alexis is a third-grader. “I flew down there,” said Wasik, an electrician.
When he arrived, the backup of emergency vehicles and panicked parents extended half a mile beyond the school. Wasik parked on the first lawn he could find and ran.
“It was chaos, cars blocking everything, a SWAT team,” he said. “All these parents screaming for their kids.”
Children were ushered out of the building, instructed to close their eyes as adults guided them through the halls. Some were so scared they vomited.
The students were moved into the parking lot, single file, hands on one another’s shoulders. Some wept, some smiled, some stared at the pavement.
A few of the children had blood on their clothes.
Helicopters circled above and dozens of emergency vehicles arrived from nearby towns. Firefighters rushed over to parents holding children and wrapped them in blankets to warm them from the December chill.