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December 15, 2012

SCHOOL SHOOTING, HOW IT HAPPENED: Routine morning, then shots and unthinkable terror

NEWTOWN, Conn. — First, he killed his mother.

Nancy Lanza's body was found later at their home on Yogananda Street in Newtown — after the carnage at Sandy Hook Elementary School; after a quiet New England town was scarred forever by unthinkable tragedy; after a nation seemingly inured to violence found itself stunned by the slaughter of innocents.

Nobody knows why 20-year-old Adam Lanza shot his mother, why he then took her guns to the school and murdered 20 children and six adults.

But on Friday he drove his mother's car through this 300-year-old town with its fine old churches and towering trees and arrived at a school full of the season's joy. Somehow, he got past a security door to a place where children should have been safe from harm.

Theodore Varga and other fourth-grade teachers were meeting; the glow remained from the previous night's fourth-grade concert.

"It was a lovely day," Varga said. "Everybody was joyful and cheerful. We were ending the week on a high note."

And then, suddenly and unfathomably, gunshots rang out. "I can't even remember how many," he said.

The fourth-graders, the oldest children in the school, were in specialty classes like gym and music. There was no lock on the meeting room door, so the teachers had to think about how to escape, knowing that their students were with other teachers.

Someone turned the loudspeaker on, so everyone could hear what was happening in the office.

"You could hear the hysteria that was going on," Varga said. "Whoever did that saved a lot of people. Everyone in the school was listening to the terror that was transpiring."

Gathered in another room for a 9:30 a.m. meeting were principal Dawn Hochsprung and school therapist Diane Day along with a school psychologist, other staff members and a parent. They were meeting to discuss a second-grader.

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