The hideous massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary claimed the lives of 20 young students and six adults. The victims were siblings and grandchildren, educators and mentors. As America mourns their deaths, more information is coming out about those lost in the tragedy.
Charlotte Bacon, 6
Charlotte Bacon’s grandmother Irene Hagen described her as a “sweet, outgoing, energetic little girl with beautiful red, curly hair,” reports WCCO TV. Charlotte loved school and dresses, and on the day of the shooting, she proudly left for school in a new pink dress and boots. It was an outfit intended for the holidays, but Charlotte convinced her mom JoAnn to let her wear her new clothes. “She was going to go some places in this world,” her uncle John Hagen told Newsday. “This little girl could light up the room for anyone.” Her older brother Guy was also at the school at the time of the shooting but was not hurt.
Daniel Barden, 7
According to Daniel Barden’s family, he “embodied everything that is wholesome and innocent in the world,” CNN reports. He loved adventure and pursued happiness fearlessly. He enjoyed soccer, swimming and music — even forming a band with his siblings. Daniel was “always smiling, unfailingly polite, incredibly affectionate, fair and so thoughtful toward others, imaginative in play, both intelligent and articulate in conversation: in all, a constant source of laughter and joy,” his parents said in a statement.
Rachel D’Avino, 29
Rachel D’Avino’s best friend and would-have-been fiancé Anthony J. Cerritelli was planning to propose to her on Christmas Eve, as he had recently asked her parents for permission to marry her, according to her obituary on the website of Munson-Lovetere Funeral Homes. D’Avino was working toward her doctorate degree from the University of St. Joseph of Hartford, Conn. “Her presence and tremendous smile brightened any room she entered,” reads her obituary. She loved karate, cooking, animals, baking and photography but her foremost passion was her work in behavioral therapy with children with autism.
Olivia Engel, 6
Olivia Engel, whose favorite colors were purple and pink, would say grace for the family before dinner every night, reports the New Haven Register. Engel did well in reading and math at school, and she also took classes in art, swimming, ballet and hip-hop. Her favorite toy was a stuffed lamb. “I cannot stop thinking about her beautiful smile, her sweet voice and her infectious laugh,” wrote Julie Guastello Pokrinchak on a Facebook page set up by her family.
Josephine Gay, 7
Josephine Gay had celebrated her seventh birthday just three days before the massacre. She loved the color purple, and to honor her memory, residents in a new subdivision near Sandy Hook Elementary School hung purple balloons on mailboxes and gates, the Wall Street Journal reports.
Dawn Hochsprung, 47, school principal
Dawn Hochsprung, the school’s principal, reportedly tried to intervene when the shooter barged into Sandy Hook Elementary. Some reports claim the encounter, which led to her being fatally shot, was heard over the school intercom. It’s unclear whether Hochsprung turned the intercom’s switch on deliberately, but her last alleged act may have led to many lives being saved. Hochsprung had recently installed a new security system at Sandy Hook, requiring all visitors to ring the doorbell at the front entrance after the school doors locked at 9:30 a.m.
Dylan Hockley, 6
Garlic bread, video games and bouncing on the family trampoline with his older brother Jake were some of Dylan Hockley’s favorite things, his grandmother Theresa Moretti told the Boston Herald. Dylan “had the most mischievous little grin,” said Moretti. “To know him was to love him.”
Madeleine Hsu, 6
Madeleine Hsu — also known as Maddy — was described by a neighbor as “very upbeat and kind” and “a sweet, beautiful little girl.” She often wore bright, flowery dresses.
Catherine Hubbard, 6
Catherine Hubbard was a 6-year-old first-grader at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Her parents released a statement thanking police and firemen and their close-knit community for their support after a family friend turned away reporters from their house. “We are greatly saddened by the loss of our beautiful daughter Catherine Violet, and our thoughts and prayers are with the other families who have been affected by this tragedy,” the statement said. “We ask that you continue to pray for us and the other families who have experienced loss in this tragedy.”
Chase Kowalski, 7
Chase Kowalski was a lively, sunny 7-year-old that charmed his neighbors with his smile and energy. He was an energetic child that had recently run a triathlon, loved baseball, was in the Cub Scouts, looked forward to the kids’ workshop at the local Home Depot and said he wanted his teeth back for Christmas. Longtime neighbor Suzanne Baumann told the Wall Street Journal that she often saw the beloved boy riding an all-terrain vehicle around the yard and added that Chase was consistently friendly. He always said hello,” she said. “He was very receptive to people. He was a beautiful child, an amazing child.”
“We are thankful to the Lord for giving us seven years with our beautiful, loving son. It is with heavy hearts that we return him,” his family said in an obituary.
Jesse Lewis, 6
Jesse Lewis was one of the 6-year-olds in Victoria Soto’s class who didn’t survive, despite her efforts to protect her students. He was described as an energetic boy who, like many of his classmates, was looking forward to the upcoming holidays. He was particularly excited to go to school on Friday, because they had plans to make gingerbread houses. His father Neil Heslin told the New York Post that he loved math and horseback riding.
Ana Marquez-Greene, 6
Ana Marquez-Greene moved from Canada to Connecticut with her family two months ago. Family and friends have described her as a lively child who loved music — much like her father, saxophonist Jimmy Greene, who wrote on Facebook that he was attempting to “work through this nightmare.”
James Mattioli, 6
James Mattioli’s family fondly remembers a 6-year-old with a personality as bold as his Mohawk hairstyle. James loved the outdoors — “I need to go outside, Mom. I need fresh air,” he would often say, according to WKTV. His favorite activities were swimming “like a fish,” riding his bike, playing iPad games, wearing an Angry Birds T-shirt and singing so often that he once asked when he would get a chance to sing onstage. He was a chatty, hungry (for food and for life), playful child who fiercely loved his older sister. He wanted to do everything she could, his parents said in an obituary. “They were the best of friends, going to school together, playing games together and making endless drawings and crafts together.” The boy, whose family called “J,” will be incredibly missed, they continued.
Grace McDonnell, 7
Grace McDonnell was a “girly girl” who loved wearing pink and playing dress-up in jewelry, explained her grandmother Mary Ann McDonnell. The 7-year-old adored her pet dog named Puddin’ and enjoyed art projects, soccer and gymnastics. “A little baby like that — I just hope she didn’t suffer,” said her grandmother.
Anne Marie Murphy, 52
Anne Marie Murphy worked as an aide at Sandy Hook, where she taught art and special education. It appears that she died while attempting to shield her students from the gunfire, as her body was found covering a group of children. “She was a sweetheart, and she loved Sandy Hook,” a family friend told the Wall Street Journal. Murphy is survived by her husband and four children.
Emilie Parker, 6
“My daughter Emilie would be one of the first ones to be standing and giving support to all the victims because that’s the kind of kid she is,” said father Robbie Parker in a statement. He added that she was an artist, always carrying around her pencils and markers to draw pictures or make cards for people.
Jack Pinto, 6
Six-year-old Jack Pinto was known for his love of all things sports — especially his favorite football player, Victor Cruz of the New York Giants — so much so that Jack’s parents are considering burying him in his No. 80 Giants jersey. When the star receiver learned that Jack had idolized him, he paid a tribute to the young victim by inscribing “R.I.P. Jack Pinto” and “Jack Pinto, My Hero” on his cleats for Sunday’s game against the Atlanta Falcons. On his glove, he wrote, “Jack Pinto. This one is 4 U!” Cruz plans to visit Newtown, Conn., next week to present the Pinto family with the game-day gear that comprised the touching tribute to their son.
Noah Pozner, 6
Noah Pozner’s aunt Victoria Haller told CNN that “he had a huge heart … and was so much fun, a little bit rambunctious, lots of spirit.” He also loved playing with his siblings and cousins. Pozner’s twin sister was in another classroom and survived the attack.
Caroline Previdi, 6
Six-year-old Caroline Previdi loved to share smiles and laughter with friends and family — a trait that earned her the nickname “Silly Caroline,” the Wall Street Journal reports. A year ago, she was breaking open her piggy bank to put her money toward buying gifts for less fortunate children, according to People. Caroline’s older brother also attended Sandy Hook, but he safely escaped the rampage. Her grandfather described her as a “bouncy kid” who enjoyed drawing and playing soccer.
Jessica Rekos, 6
CNN reports that Jessica Rekos loved everything about horses — from horse movies and books to drawing and writing stories about them. This year she reportedly asked Santa for a new cowgirl hat and boots; her family had also promised that she could get her own horse when she turned 10. “We called her our little CEO for the way she carefully thought out and planned everything,” said her family in a statement. “We cannot imagine our life without her.”
Avielle Richman, 6
Six-year-old Avielle Richman had moved to Newtown, Conn., from Southern California a few years ago, LA Weekly reports. Her parents maintained a blog, called Avielle’s Adventures, where they posted about the young girl’s activities and milestones. An Oct. 19 post reads, “Today is Avielle’s sixth birthday. I know that every parent says this, but holy cow I can’t believe how fast time flies!” In June, they posted a picture of Avielle’s kindergarten diploma and began documenting Avielle’s foray into horseback riding.
Lauren Rousseau, 30
Lauren Rousseau, 30 years old, learned the rough life of a substitute teacher the hard way. At Sandy Hook Elementary School, she was a permanent sub — a low-paying job without benefits — but it was a job she loved. Rousseau grew up in Danbury, Conn., and earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Connecticut and a master’s degree in elementary education from the University of Bridgeport, but her dreams of full-time teaching were hampered by the struggling economy. The Sandy Hook job wasn’t perfect, but it was enough for her to celebrate, her father stated. “Oh, she called so excited, she was just on cloud nine,” recalled her father Gilles Rousseau, a photographer from Southbury, Conn. “She had such big plans. She would just go on and on about the kids.” The icing on the cake was that Dawn Hochsprung, the school principal who died trying to stop the gunman, was a family friend — Hochsprung’s husband George had been Rousseau’s teacher. Rousseau worked a second job at Starbucks and lived with her mother to help make ends meet. In her spare time, she loved her cat and Broadway shows; she and her boyfriend enjoyed going to parties and Yankees games together and had discussed marriage. Near its end, Rousseau’s life took another happy turn — Sandy Hook hired her full time last month. “I’ll take some comfort that the last year of her life was her happiest,” her mother Teresa said on Saturday. It was her dream job, the Washington Post reported. “She was still a little girl at 30,” her father has stated. “She loved little kids. She was in their zone.”
Mary Sherlach, 56, school psychologist
Mary Sherlach had been employed at Sandy Hook Elementary since 1994. She and her husband of 31 years have two adult daughters. Sherlach’s neighbor Cathy Lucas described her as a “lovely, lovely woman.” Sherlach formerly worked as a school psychologist in Redding, North Haven and New Haven, Conn., public schools. Her hobbies included gardening, theater and reading.
Victoria Soto, 27
Victoria Soto, a 27-year-old teacher, hid her first-grade students from the shooter and died while trying to protect them. Known to friends and family as Vicki, Soto has been described as a passionate, dedicated teacher, who acted on her instincts. Her cousin Jim Wiltsie told ABC News, “It brings peace to know that Vicki was doing what she loved, protecting the children. And in our eyes, she is a hero.”
Benjamin Wheeler, 6
Fate has a cruel sense of irony, a fact all too evident in 6-year-old Benjamin’s case. His parents moved him and his 9-year-old brother Nate to Newtown, Conn., from New York City in April 2011 so they could grow up in a quiet community. His father David works in the film-and-television industry, and mother is a music teacher and performer, but they believed the move was the right choice for their spirited, closely bonded sons. “Music can happen anywhere,” his mother Francine Wheeler told the Newtown Bee in an interview. “We knew we wanted a piece of lawn, somewhere quiet, somewhere with good schools.” Ben thrived in his suburban settings, following his dad around the yard, helping him with chores by handing him tools, playing soccer, listening to the Beatles, participating as a Tiger Cub Scout, taking swimming lessons and performing in a piano recital, all with the highest octane of energy.
His parents described him in a statement as an “irrepressibly bright and spirited boy whose love of fun and excitement at the wonders of life and the world could rarely be contained,” and went on to say that “his rush to experience life was headlong, creative and immediate.”
“There’s always some brave individual who goes up to the dance floor to get everybody involved,” said Rabbi Shaul Praver of Newtown’s Adath Israel synagogue. “That was Ben Wheeler.” This year, Ben had attended the temple’s Hanukkah celebration with his parents. “Just delightful people,” Praver added.
Allison Wyatt, 6
Allison Wyatt’s family has remained, understandably, reticent since the 6-year-old’s untimely death on Friday. Allison has an obituary page set up on legacy.com with only a brief sentence saying she was killed, but many have offered condolences to a child they never knew. Those that did know her remember her as a quiet and loving little girl.
“She was a very shy girl, she was quiet and kept to herself, but she would smile at things. If a kid did something funny, she’d be laughing,” day-care teacher Kate Capellaro of All for Kids in Ridgefield, Conn., told the Press-Telegram. Capellaro said Allison, who went to the center occasionally, the last time being over the summer, was well behaved, but sometimes cried when her mother left. The Wyatts’ next-door neighbor described Allison to the Connecticut Post as a “very nice person” who enjoyed gardening with her mother and was always outside in the summer.