A WORKER who turned on the intercom, alerting others in the building that something was very wrong; a staff member who risked his life by running through the halls warning of danger; an administrator who led 18 children on their hands and knees to safety, then gave them paper and crayons to keep them calm and quiet.
Out of a tight-knit town roiling with grief glows one bright spot: the selfless actions and snap judgments of staff at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
District superintendent Janet Robinson noted “incredible acts of heroism” that “ultimately saved so many lives”.
“The teachers were really, really focused on their students,” she said. Some of them made the ultimate sacrifice. After Adam Lanza broke through the school door, gun blazing, school psychologist Mary Sherlach and principal Dawn Hochsprung ran towards him, Ms Robinson said. Ms Hochsprung died while lunging at the gunman, officials said.
Victoria Soto, a 27-year-old teacher, reportedly hid some students in a cupboard, and died trying to shield them from bullets, a cousin, Jim Wiltsie, told ABC News. Those who knew Ms Soto said they were not surprised.
“You have a teacher who cared more about her students than herself,” said John Harkins, mayor of Stratford, Ms Soto’s hometown. “That speaks volumes to her character, commitment and dedication.”
In other cases, staff both saved pupils and managed to escape with their own lives.
Teacher Theodore Varga said that as gunfire echoed through the school, a janitor ran around, warning people. He appears to have survived; all the adults killed were women. “He said, ‘Guys! Get down! Hide!”’ Ms Varga said. “So he was a hero.”
Someone switched on the intercom, alerting people in the building to the attack by letting them hear the chaos in the school office, a teacher said.
In a classroom, teacher Kaitlin Roig barricaded her 15 students into a toilet, pulled a bookshelf across the door and locked it. She told the kids to be “absolutely quiet”.
Administrator Maryann Jacob was working with a group of 18 children in the library when the shooting broke out. She herded them into a classroom in the library, but then realised the door would not lock.
They crawled across the room into a storage space, locked the door and barricaded it with a filing cabinet. There happened to be materials for colouring, she said, “so we set them up with paper and crayons”.