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Residents In Conn. Town Struggle As Details Emerge



The nation is reeling from yesterday's deadly shooting, nowhere more than in the community of Newtown, Connecticut. What happened at Sandy Hook Elementary is now considered the second deadliest school shooting in U.S. history. We now know the gunman forced his way into the school. We also know that three weapons were recovered at the scene. And we now know that all of the children killed were between the ages of 6 and 7.

Today, residents in Newtown are just beginning to confront the scope of that tragedy. NPR's Quil Lawrence is there, and he spoke with some of them.

QUIL LAWRENCE, BYLINE: Newtown is the sort of place where school kids normally run their parents ragged with weekend activities. But on this sunny Saturday, nothing was normal. A bunch of parents brought their kids together at a middle school gym.

JIM CARPENTER: We just came over here so they would have something to do, because most of the activities have been canceled. And - so some of the parents decided to all come over here and just let the kids play, for fun.

LAWRENCE: Jim Carpenter came out with his two sons, ages 10 and 9. They didn't attend Sandy Hook Elementary, but they played sports with kids who did.

CARPENTER: My wife's over at somebody's house now who lost a son. They both played football with him. And - so they're having a tough time. And nobody really knows how anybody's going to cope or is supposed to cope. So we're all kind of numb and clueless. We don't know what to do.

LAWRENCE: Before the names were announced, residents had only learned by word of mouth about the victims, because authorities have been strictly limiting public information. Police Lieutenant Paul Vance said there was what he called good evidence being exploited at the scene that did indicate a motive. But he wouldn't elaborate.

LIEUTENANT PAUL VANCE: We've done everything we need to do to literally peel back the onion layer by layer and examine every crack and crevice of that facility, and that does not include or exclude, I should say, the outside of the building. So it's going to be a long, painstaking process.

LAWRENCE: Vance said there were two crime scenes - the school and another site where a single woman was found dead. He appealed to the public to give some space to the families who've lost loved ones in the massacre. Medical examiner H. Wayne Carver II said all of the victims appeared to have been shot more than once with a rifle.

DR. H. WAYNE CARVER II: I've been at this for a third of a century. This probably is the worst I have seen or the worst that I know of any of my colleagues having seen.

LAWRENCE: Around Newtown, some were willing to share their thoughts, others were already exhausted by the news media saturation over the past 24 hours. Bob Elliot, who's lived here for 18 years, said his family knew the principal of Sandy Hook, and both his sons went there when they were younger. He said the community had taken pride in how quiet and safe it is.

BOB ELLIOT: Nobody locks their doors. You don't need to lock your car. When, you know, when somebody gets a traffic ticket, it's in the paper. And then this happens. And last night, my son - my 17-year-old son couldn't sleep. We wake up this morning and he had locked all the doors in the house, including the door to the basement. And then everybody is just rattled.

LAWRENCE: Irene Caulfield has a boutique in Sandy Hook's town center. Her daughter put a sign out in front that says give your loved ones a hug.

IRENE CAULFIELD: You know, these children were everyone's children, this is the type of town we are, you know? It should be the way the world is. It's not someone's child. It's everyone's child.

LAWRENCE: As the names of the children and teachers were made public late in the afternoon, town officials once again appealed that the privacy of mourning families be respected. Quil Lawrence, NPR News, Newtown. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.