My heart goes out to the friends and family of the victims of this horrible incident. These tragedies are just unimaginable and it angers and saddens everyone….everyone.
With that said, my viewpoint on how to stop such incidents or at the least, to minimize the amount of death and destruction that happens during these types of incidents is to not ‘depend’ on someone else for the defense, but to be ready to ‘receive’ the assault. To be prepared.
To have the proper mindset about school or mall or whatever facility defense, I think the words of Sun Tzu ring true.
“The art of war teaches us to rely not on the likelihood of the enemy’s not coming, but on our own readiness to receive him; not on the chance of his not attacking, but rather on the fact that we have made our position unassailable.”
So for the defense, any administrator whom is tasked with evaluating their security protocols should be asking two questions–are we ready for an attack by an active shooter(s) and have we made our position unassailable? And once a plan is in place, that administrator should test the plan and apply Kaizen or continuous improvement to it–to constantly improve their defense.
My other commentary here is that humans are a better defense against active shooters. A machine can fail–from cameras to ‘security glass’ to alarms. If it is made by a human, it can fail and it can also be defeated by a thinking human intent on destroying that in which you love. Your best defense is a well trained and thinking human, that is ‘backed up’ by all of those security gadgets.
The other point to bring up here is how fast this happened. The shooter in this attack was able to accomplish his goal within several minutes. The only people that could have stopped him would have been the teachers themselves. Because police could not have reached the scene in time. If there was a guard on the campus, he could have stopped the shooter at the entrance–because the security glass certainly did not stop the shooter.
But what if that guard is killed in the initial assault? It will be your teachers and others to step in to do what is right. It is about survival at that point, and a prepared staff is key. Having guards as a stop gap will definitely be optimum. An armed guard can also be intimidating to potential attackers and their plans–which might cause them to go elsewhere.
So hire guards, create an effective plan, and do not allow your facility and people to be victims. RUN/HIDE/FIGHT. Empower your teachers or employees with the knowledge necessary to survive and even defeat this type of attack. Get prepared and protect the most precious resources this country has–it’s people. –Matt
Sandy Hook massacre: New details, but few answers
By Steve Vogel, Sari Horwitz and David A. Fahrenthold,
December 16, 2012
The gunman who killed 27 people, including 20 children, on Friday targeted a school to which he had no apparent connection — forcing his way in and spraying classrooms with a weapon designed to kill across a battlefield, authorities said.
On Saturday, law enforcement officials gave new details about the rampage of Adam Lanza, which ended with Lanza’s suicide. Their new narrative partially contradicted previous ones and made a baffling act seem more so.
Lanza’s mother, for instance, was not a teacher at Sandy Hook Elementary, after all. She apparently was unemployed. So it was still a mystery why her 20-year-old son — after dressing in black, killing his mother and taking at least three guns from her collection — then drove the five miles to a school where he was a stranger.
The part of the story that remained grimly, awfully unchanged was what Lanza did when he got there.
Authorities on Saturday released the names of those Lanza killed at the school, who ranged in age from 6 to 56. And the state’s medical examiner — speaking in sanitized, clinical terms — described the results of something deeply obscene: a semiautomatic rifle fired inside an elementary classroom.
“I’ve been at this for a third of a century. And my sensibilities may not be the average man’s. But this probably is the worst I have seen,” said H. Wayne Carver II. Carver described the children’s injuries, which he said ranged from at least two to 11 bullet wounds apiece.
He had performed seven of the autopsies himself. A reporter asked what the children had been wearing.
“They’re wearing cute kid stuff,” Carver said. “I mean, they’re first-graders.”
On Saturday, this small New England town and the country played out what is now a familiar ritual: the dumbstruck aftermath of a young gunman’s massacre. Word came that President Obama would arrive Sunday for an evening interfaith service, repeating his role from Fort Hood, Tex.; Aurora, Colo.; and Tucson, Ariz. He would again be chief mourner.
In Connecticut, people who had known Adam Lanza described him as odd, nervous and withdrawn, and they searched their memories for signs they’d missed. Memorials went up. Politicians talked — a little more forcefully this time — about how someone needed to be brave enough to talk about guns and gun control.
And, in Newtown, they started funeral preparations. This time, the ritual was for lives so new that it seemed impossible to speak of them in the past tense.
“He was just in the wrong place at the wrong time,” said Rabbi Shaul Praver of Adath Israel, who said that his congregation lost a first-grade boy. “His little body could not endure so many bullets like that.”
On Saturday, law enforcement officials said that Lanza had entered the school by force sometime after 9:30 a.m. Friday. Sandy Hook’s principal, Dawn Hochsprung, had recently installed a new security system in which the school doors were kept locked all day starting at 9:30. But Lanza had apparently shattered the glass in a window or door.
Lanza was carrying at least three guns from a collection maintained by his mother, who friends said enjoyed target shooting. Lanza had two pistols, a Glock and a Sig Sauer.
But he apparently chose a larger weapon, a .223-caliber Bushmaster rifle, for much of the killing. This rifle fires one bullet for every pull of the trigger, and the unusually high speed of its round was designed to produce significant internal damage. Authorities said Lanza fired dozens and dozens of times in a spree that lasted minutes.
“All the wounds that I know of at this point were caused by the long weapon,” said Carver, the medical examiner.
He said he saw multiple wounds on the bodies of those he examined, and based on his conversations with colleagues, “I believe everybody was hit more than once.” None of the victims likely survived very long after being hit, Carver said.
When police arrived, Lanza was dead. So were Hochsprung and five other adults. So were 18 children. Two more were pronounced dead later at a local hospital.
Sixteen of the 20 children were just 6 years old. The other four were 7.
Later, when investigators went to the home that Lanza shared with his mother, Nancy Lanza was found dead there — the first victim of the killings and the last discovered.
On Saturday, authorities said they had “very good evidence” regarding Adam Lanza’s motives. But they didn’t say what that evidence was, and law enforcement officials said they had not found anything like a suicide note.
“No words can truly express how heartbroken we are,” Adam Lanza’s father, Peter Lanza, said in a statement released Saturday. “We are in a state of disbelief and trying to find whatever answers we can. We too are asking why.”
Around the country, advocates for stronger gun-control laws said they hoped that the shock of this crime would start a debate that other mass shootings had not. Still, with so little known about Adam Lanza and the guns he used, it was difficult to say what sort of law, precisely, was needed to prevent another shooting like Friday’s.
“If having dozens of people gunned down in an elementary school doesn’t motivate Washington to do even the easy things they can do, it’s not clear what will,” said Mark Glaze, director of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a group chaired by New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg (I) that represents 750 mayors across the country.
Politics will come later, once the country has become used to the idea that this actually happened. In Newtown on Saturday, the shooting still seemed to dwell in the realm of the unthinkable.
“The emotions of yesterday were just absolutely overwhelming,” Monsignor Robert Weiss of St. Rose of Lima Roman Catholic Church in Newtown said in an interview Saturday with NBC News. “I don’t know if the reality has really settled in yet.’’
Weiss had accompanied police when they notified parents that their children had been killed. They asked him questions that most likely will never have answers.
“What were the last moments of these people’s lives like? They were wondering, did the child even know what was happening? Were they afraid? Did they see something coming?” Weiss told NBC. “ .?.?. So these parents are left with those unanswered questions in addition to just why this had to happen — why to their child?’’
Elswehere in Newtown, 8-year-old Maleeha Ali, a third-grader at Sandy Hook who escaped unharmed, came with her father and mother to Treadwell Park near the school with a sign she had made honoring Vicki Soto, the first-grade teacher who reportedly died trying to protect her students from the gunman. Soto taught Maleeha when she was in first grade, and the two would exchange greetings every day, the girls’ parents said.
The sign called Soto “our hero.”
One parent who lost a child, Robbie Parker, spoke to reporters Saturday evening. He expressed sympathy for Lanza’s family, saying, “I can’t imagine how hard this experience must be for you.”
Parker said that Emilie, the daughter he lost, was blond and blue-eyed and could light up a room. “All those who had the pleasure to meet her would agree that the world was better because she was in it,” Parker said.
He recalled the last time he saw Emilie, on Friday morning as he headed to work. He had been teaching her Portuguese, and so their last conversation was in that language.
“She said that she loved me, and she gave me a kiss and I was out the door,” said Parker, whose family moved to Newtown eight months ago. “I’m so blessed to be her dad.”
Sandy Hook massacre: Teachers sought to soothe children in moments of terror
By Eli Saslow
Sunday, December 16
The day began, like all days at Sandy Hook Elementary, with the morning ritual of taking attendance.
Yellow buses rolled into the parking lot just before 9 a.m., and a dozen teachers working “bus duty” greeted them at the school’s front curb. The teachers marked off students as they descended from their buses, patting their heads and counting them out loud. Then the group entered en masse through the glass doors at the front of the school and dispersed into classrooms, where the students were counted again.
Kindergartners snatched their colored name tags off a classroom wall and dropped them into a bucket so their teacher could see which ones were missing. First-graders seated in classrooms near the school’s front entrance listened for their names, raised their hands one by one and said, “Here.”
Inside a single-story school building in the quiet hills of central Connecticut, everyone was accounted for. The glass doors were locked, and the video security system was enacted. A voice came over the loudspeaker to read the Pledge of Allegiance and then the school’s daily announcements. It was the seventh day of Hanukkah. The cafeteria would serve homemade pizza and broccoli for lunch. Christmas cookies were for sale after school in the lobby.
The date was Friday, Dec. 14, 2012.
No place is immune in the modern history of mass shootings in the United States, and this time it was Sandy Hook — where children stuff their backpacks into wooden cubbies and dress in mismatching outfits for Wacky Wednesdays, where Big Bird and Elmo run the haunted house in the gymnasium each Halloween, where a metal sign near the entrance reads, “Visitors Welcome.”
Ever since the school’s founding in 1957, its students have abided by a simple motto: “Think you can. Work hard. Get smart. Be kind.” Then, in 2010, the school hired an energetic new principal, a woman who sometimes sat cross-legged with students on the floor, and she added another clause: “Have fun.”
The mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary unfolded in many ways, and in many voices.
There was the language of the state police investigation report: “On 12/14/12, at approximately 9:30 a.m., Newtown Police received a 9-1-1 call reporting a possible shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School located at 12 Dickenson Drive in Newtown.”
There was the language of emergency radio traffic: “Units responding at Sandy Hook School. The front glass has been broken. We’re unsure why.”
But, most of all on Friday, there was the simple and uncomplicated language of an elementary school, where, at 9:35 a.m., an unfamiliar voice could be heard shouting over the loudspeaker:
“Put your hands up!”
Then came popping sounds and screams. Children ducked under their desks. Adults locked doors, turned back to face their students and wondered how to explain the unexplainable.
‘It’s a drill’
Library specialist Bev Bjorklund heard the noises and hustled about 15 students toward a storage closet in the library, which was filled with computer servers. “Hold hands. Be quiet,” she told the kids. They looked back at her, confused. One child wondered if pots and pans were clanging. Another thought he heard firecrackers. Another worried an animal was coming to the door.
They were children in a place built for children, and Bjorklund didn’t know how to answer them. She told them to close their eyes and to keep quiet. She helped move an old bookshelf in front of the door to act as a makeshift barricade. She wondered: How do you explain unimaginable horror to the most innocent?
One of her colleagues, a library clerk named Mary Anne Jacobs, did it for her. “It’s a drill,” she told the students.
Drills they knew. Drills they understood. Their last one had been just a few weeks earlier, in mid-October, on a clear day when the children marched out of school in ordered fashion, placing their hands on each other’s shoulders to form a conga line, everyone’s eyes shut except for the designated “locomotive,” an adult at the front of the line. They had stood in the parking lot in straight lines that were never quite straight, until their teachers took attendance and marched them back inside. The drill had lasted about 25 minutes.
But now the popping sounds over the loudspeaker continued, and nobody in the library storage room thought it was safe to march outside. Jacobs decided the students needed a distraction. She found scraps of paper and some crayons on the floor of the closet, and Bjorklund helped pass them out. As muffled screams continued over the loudspeaker, 18 fourth graders began to color.
Near the front of the school, Victoria Soto was also trying to keep her students calm. The 27-year-old teacher hurried her first-graders into a bathroom near Classroom 10, just beyond the school’s main glass doors. Two students stood on the toilet. Others huddled on the floor. With no space left, Soto stepped out of the small room herself, a witness said. A 20-year-old man wearing black stepped into the classroom and shot her before quickly exiting the room.
“She got those kids to a good place and then told them they were safe,” said Robert Licata, the parent of one of those first-graders who survived. “She knew them well enough to make them feel okay.”
Others did the same. Music teacher Maryrose Kristopik barricaded her students in a classroom and blocked the door with xylophones. First-grade teacher Janet Vollmer read her kindergartners a story. Art teacher Virginia Gunn told her class to be quiet and used her cellphone to call police.
Caitlin Roig, a 29-year-old teacher, told ABC News that she turned the lights off in her classroom and tried to explain the situation to her first-graders. “There are bad guys out there now,” she said. “We need to wait for the good guys.” The students whispered in the room, speculating about their Christmas presents and wondering if they could defeat the bad guys with karate. One of them began to cry. “Show me your smile,” Roig told him.
“I’m thinking, as a 6-year-old, 7-year-old, what are their thoughts?” she said. “So I said to them, ‘I need you to know that I love you all very much and that it is going to be okay.’ Because I thought it was the last thing they were ever going to hear.”
Instead, they heard a knock on the door, and Roig walked closer to it. “Police!” people on the other side shouted. Roig didn’t believe them. The policemen slid their badges under the door, and Roig opened it. Some of her students walked into the hallway about 9:45 a.m., into the aftermath of a shooting.
In the language of the police report: “Teams encountered several students and staff suffering from gunshot wounds. Eighteen (18) children were pronounced dead at the scene, two (2) children were transported to Danbury Hospital and later pronounced dead. Six (6) adult victims were also pronounced dead at the scene.”
In the language of the emergency radio traffic: “I’ve got bodies here.”
In the language of the Sandy Hook hallway: “Walk with a partner,” a policeman instructed. “Shield your eyes. Hold hands.”
As the students filtered out of the school, they walked past a flier on the wall that kindergartners had posted there some weeks earlier. It was an annual class prank, a Christmastime school tradition. The class had lost a gingerbread cookie in the school oven, and now they were searching for it. “WANTED,” the sign read. “Missing Gingerbread Man.” But now that sign was obscured by SWAT teams and stretchers and the harried assembling of a makeshift morgue. The students continued through the hallway, passing the security camera and exiting through the glass doors.
One complained of a stomachache. Another would later tell his father that he had wanted to “run from the school like Forrest Gump.” Another, who waited out the shooting in the bathroom, would be too scared to go to the bathroom alone at home.
Outside the school, 17-year-old Mergim Bajraliu scanned their faces and looked for his sister, Vanessa, a fourth-grader. She had left for school in a pink jacket and jeans. Bajraliu saw one girl exit the school splattered with blood. He saw two more, their bodies limp and their faces pale, carried out by state troopers. One of them looked like his sister.
“I got close to the state trooper to get a good view,” he said. “The poor girl was not my sister.”
His mother joined him in the school parking lot. Then an uncle came, too. They waited outside as hundreds of children passed by, standing near where the bus had dropped Vanessa off for school that morning. “If I could describe it in one world, it would be ‘hell,’?” Mergim said.
Finally, after 20 minutes, he saw her — healthy, pale, walking out of the building with her art class. She searched the parking lot for her family and then collapsed in her mother’s arms.
In the hours ahead, children would begin to ask their parents a series of difficult questions about the shooting, and parents would try to distill a tragedy in the language of childhood. “Are we safe? Is it okay? Are the bad guys gone?” said David Connors, the father of third-grade triplets.
“Are they dead? Are they in heaven yet?” said Licata, the parent of a first-grader.
One of the questions — the most simple and the most persistent, the quintessential question of childhood — would also become the most difficult:
But first, in the hours after the shooting, police directed students and families to a nearby firehouse, a low-slung building that was decorated with Christmas lights. Firefighters moved out their trucks to make more space for the families. In one room, parents gathered to wait for their children. In another, children gathered to wait for their parents. Cartoons played on TV, and volunteers passed out Christmas cookies and juice. A local pastor and a few school officials stepped in front of the room holding several pieces of paper. It was a printed list of children who attended Sandy Hook.
“We are going to need to take attendance,” said Robert Weiss, the pastor of nearby St. Rose Church.
And this time, so many names were unaccounted for.