'It's going to be OK': Heroes of Sandy Hook

NEED TO KNOW
  • People saved lives at Sandy Hook Elementary; some gave theirs. Here are their stories
  • "If they started crying, I would take their face and tell them, 'It's going to be OK,' one teacher says
Teachers became heroes after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

“He was actually a hero," Sandy Hook teacher Theodore Varga told CBS News, relaying the sparsely written tale of a custodian that ran through the halls when a gunman burst into the Connecticut elementary school last week.

"He said, `Guys! Get down! Hide!" Varga said. There are other stories of heroes – some adults and even some students – that sprung into action during one of the deadliest mass killings in the nation’s history. "It's OK. I'll lead the way out," one student reportedly said, adding that he knew karate.

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There’s Mary Ann Jacob, a school library aide, who said she had 18 souls in her charge when she heard the incredulous sounds of gunfire.

"I shouted 'Lockdown!' and I ran across the hall and told the other class," Jacob said, according to NBC News.

Quickly gathering the students in the closet – all of them crawling – she and other library staff took to immediate task of getting the children to remain calm.

"The kids cozied up, and we waited," Jacob told the station. She said she told the kids they were going through a drill. "We settled them down with paper and crayons."

Police had to slip a badge under the door for Jacob to believe it was really them. "When the police finally came, we were afraid to open the door," she said.

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There’s Maryrose Kristopik, a teacher who showed extraordinary poise and methodically barricaded her class at Sandy Hook while a gunman blasted away in the hall. “We hid in a closet, we stayed quiet, we held hands, we hugged,” the brave teacher told The New York Daily News. “I tried to talk to them calmly.”

To add to the fright, Kristopik said the gunman at one point stood outside their door, screaming  “Let me in! Let me in!” according to the Daily Mail.

"I was just trying to be as strong as possible," she told the newspaper. "I was thinking about the children. I told them that we had to keep quiet and we were hiding and nobody knew we were there. Of course I was afraid too," she said. "I wanted them to be quiet, I thought it was a pretty secure out of the way place."

'They were my fourth graders'

She told the Mail: "I called the police, I dialed 911 and they said they had reports of shots in the school, so that's when I had to tell the kids there was a bad person there because I didn't want them to talk."

She doesn't feel like she did anything out of the ordinary."I did what any other teacher would have done and I know there were others like me doing the same. They were doing whatever they could. They were my fourth graders ... We also said some prayers and one of the children said we should say a prayer, and we did."

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Then there’s Kaitlin Roig, a first-grade teacher at Sandy Hook who gathered 15 of her students in a bathroom, barricading it with a book shelf.

"I just told them we have to be absolutely quiet," Roig told ABC News. "It was horrific," she said. "I didn't think we were going to live."

In a narrative of the shooting, the Hartford Courant reports that the gunman passed over Roig’s classroom for some unknown reason.

"If they started crying, I would take their face and tell them, 'It's going to be OK.' I wanted that to be the last thing they heard, not the gunfire in the hall."

'You're going to have to show me some ID'

Roig told Q104 that she remained on guard, even after officers descended upon the scene.  "You’re going to have to show me some ID before I open this door" she said she told the officers.

***

Then there's Janet Vollmer, who commandeered her kindergarten class with such deft that with short order of hearing gunfire was calmly reading to her students while the shooter, dressed in black gear with a military vest, sprayed classmates and educators with bullets outside their door.

When it became evident that "you could hear what sounded like pops, gunshots," she told CNN, the 18-year teacher locked the doors, lowered the blinds and got her kids to "go over in the safe area." 

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Then there's Vicky Soto, a 27-year-old teacher who lost her life protecting her Sandy Hook students. The gunman burst in her classroom and shot her, according to a statement from the father of a surviving student. But not before Soto tried to divert his attack by telling him that her students were in an auditorium on the other side of the school, according to news reports.

The love she had for her pupils was evident, her family said. 

"She just loved her kids, she just adored them. She would not hesitate to think to save anyone else before herself and especially children," her mother, Donna Soto, told CNN's Piers Morgan. "I have no doubt in my mind that she did every thing she could to protect every one of them."

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Then there’s Dawn Hochsprung, the 47-year-old principal of Sandy Hook. According to school therapist Diane Day, who was in a meeting with Hochsprung when the rampage began, the principal – along with school psychologist 56-year-old Mary Sherlach – leapt from their seats and ran toward the gunman, according to the Wall Street Journal.

"They didn't think twice about confronting or seeing what was going on," she said. "She was our hero," Ms. Day said.

A fourth-grade teacher, Carrie Usher, told the Journal that she believes it was Hochsprung who turned on the school’s intercom, alerting pupils and adults to the situation. "The gunfire was just unbelievable. It felt like it lasted for 5 minutes," the teacher said. "It wouldn't stop,” she told the newspaper.

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