The heroics of Sandy Hook's teachers

00:47, Dec 17 2012
Conneticut shooting
Police tape off an area around a car after a shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.
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Family members of comfort each other after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut where 27 people have died.
Conneticut shooting
Family members of comfort each other after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut where 27 people have died.
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Police patrol the streets outside Sandy Hook Elementary School after a shooting in Newtown, Connecticut in which 27 people have died.
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A mother comforts her children after the shooting.
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Two children comfort each other after the shooting.
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A teacher leads children across the parking lot to safety.
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Parents arrive to pick their children up from the the school.
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Parents arrive to pick their children up from the the school.
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Relatives of victims in the mass shooting react to the news.
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Police and emergency services set up their gear in the parking lot of Sandy Hook Elementary School.
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Police search a building at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
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Police tape off an area around an empty car.
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Police tape off an area around an empty car.
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Relatives of victims in the mass shooting react to the news.
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US President Barack Obama was visibly upset during a news conference about the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
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A woman weeps outside a building set up to counsel family members affected by a shooting nearby at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
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The families of victims grieve near the school.
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A flag flies at half mast as a school bus passes along Main Street in Newtown, Connecticut.
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Families leave the Sandy Hook Volunteer Fire Department near the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut after dozens of people were shot dead, most of them children.
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Police walk through a cordoned off crime scene related to the shootings.
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Supporters of gun control legislation hold candles during a rally in front of the White House in Washington after the shootings.
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A vigil has been held at a church in Newtown, Connecticut, after dozens of people - mostly children - were killed in a mass shooting.
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Farah Sheikh of New York, takes part in a candlelight vigil in Times Square, for the victims of the Sandy Hook School shooting.
Victoria Soto
Victoria Soto, 27, is shown in this undated handout photo posted on Tumblr in her honour. Soto was one of six adults killed at a Connecticut elementary school.
Lauren Russeau
Lauren Russeau, 30, is shown in this undated handout photo posted on Facebook in her honour. Russeau was one of six adults killed at a Connecticut elementary school.
Mary Sherlach
Mary Sherlach, 56, is shown in this undated handout photo provided by her family. Sherlach was one of six adults killed at a Connecticut elementary school.

A worker who turned on the intercom, alerting others in the building that something was very wrong. A custodian who risked his life by running through the halls warning of danger. A clerk 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 the ruins of families that lost a precious child, sister or mother, out of a tight-knit town roiling with grief, glows one bright spot: The stories of staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary School who may have prevented further carnage through selfless actions and smart snap judgments.

District Superintendent Janet Robinson noted "incredible acts of heroism" that "ultimately saved so many lives".

Adam Lanza
SHOOTING SUSPECT: Alleged Sandy Hook Elementary shooter Adam Lanza is seen in this 2005 photo.

"The teachers were really, really focused on their students," she told reporters.

Some of them made the ultimate sacrifice.

After gunman Adam Lanza broke through the school door, gun blazing, school psychologist Mary Sherlach and principal Dawn Hochsprung ran toward him, Robinson said. Hochsprung died while lunging at the gunman, officials said.

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The 56-year-old Sherlach, who would have been tasked with helping survivors cope with the tragedy, died fighting for her students, her son-in-law, Eric Schwartz, said.

"Mary felt like she was doing God's work," he said, "working with the children".

Just this past October, Hochsprung had tweeted a picture of the school's evacuation drill with the message "safety first".

Victoria Soto, a 27-year-old teacher, reportedly hid some students in a bathroom or closet and died trying to shield them from bullets, a cousin, Jim Wiltsie, told ABC News. Those who knew Soto said they weren't surprised.

"You have a teacher who cared more about her students than herself," said John Harkins, mayor of Stratford, Soto's hometown. "That speaks volumes to her character, and her commitment and dedication."

In other cases, staffers both saved students and managed to escape with their own lives.

Teacher Theodore Varga said that as gunfire echoed through the school, a custodian ran around, warning people. He appears to have survived; all the adults killed were women.

"He said: 'Guys! Get down! Hide!'," Varga said. "So he was actually 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. Teachers locked their doors and ordered children to huddle in a corner or hide in closets as shots echoed through the building.

In a classroom, teacher Kaitlin Roig barricaded her 15 students into a tiny bathroom, pulled a bookshelf across the door and locked it. She told the kids to be "absolutely quiet."

"I said, 'there are bad guys out there now. We need to wait for the good guys'," she told ABC News.

One student claimed to know karate. "It's OK. I'll lead the way out," the student said.

Clerk Maryann Jacob was working with a group of 18 fourth-graders in the library when the shooting broke out. She herded the children into a classroom in the library, but then realised the door wouldn't 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 coloring, she said, "so we set them up with paper and crayons."

One person who wasn't in the school at all also is being lauded for his grace: Robbie Parker, whose daughter Emilie died.

Speaking to reporters on Saturday (local time), he said he was not mad and offered sympathy for Lanza's family.

"I can't imagine," he said, "how hard this experience must be for you."

AP