NEW YORK – One of the 6-year-olds was so sweet his teacher said he should have come to school wrapped in a bow.
Another loved princess tea parties, Justin Bieber and trips to New York. Still another, who rode horses, was hoping for a cowgirl hat and boots for Christmas.
One year later, the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, still evokes raw emotion and sadness. On Saturday, a day after another school shooting, this time at a Colorado high school where two students were wounded, the United States will pause to remember the tragedy and revisit the contentious issue of guns in America.
On Dec. 14, 2012, Adam Lanza, 20, shot his way into the school he had once attended and murdered 20 first-graders, all aged 6 and 7, and six adults. Before heading to the school, he killed his mother in her bed, who had legally purchased the guns Lanza used that day.
Newtown officials say the town wants to be left alone on the anniversary. Some of the victims’ families have encouraged those moved by the shooting to mark the day by performing an act of kindness in their own communities.
Around the country, advocates of stricter gun control who see Newtown as a rallying call for action will ring bells to signal their refusal to let up despite setbacks. The group Mayors Against Illegal Guns says there have been 28 school shootings since Newtown.
On that deadly Friday, teachers were in the midst of their morning meetings or starting the day’s first lesson when gunfire was heard in the hallways and over the intercom system.
Eleven minutes after blasting his way in, Lanza ended his rampage with suicide. The aftershocks live on. “There’s no guidebook for this, not at all,” said Kaitlin Roig-DeBellis, a first-grade teacher who survived the attack by hiding with her students in a tiny bathroom adjacent to a room where other children and adults lost their lives.
For months after the shooting, Roig-DeBellis said she struggled to understand why it had happened and why she was still alive. “For me, I have moved forward. But I will never move on,”she said. Roig-DeBellis, and many of the families who lost loved ones on that day, plan to be out of town for the anniversary.