Thirty-one hours after their lives ended when a 20-year-old man forced his way into their school and opened fire on some of the youngest pupils and their teachers, the names of those who died in the Connecticut school rampage were released on Saturday.
The nature of the tragedy is told perhaps most poignantly not through the list of 26 names of the victims published by police, but through their dates of birth. Sixteen of them were born in 2006 — they were six years old; four more were seven. The youngest victim, Noah Pozner, celebrated his sixth birthday less than a month ago, on 20 November.
The children’s families’ lives were overturned when Adam Lanza, for reasons that are yet to be disclosed, set out for Sandy Hook elementary school after killing his mother on Friday morning.
The victims include six-year-old Ana Marquez-Greene, whose older brother Isaiah was also in the school when the shooting happened, but survived.
Ana was the daughter of a jazz saxophonist, Jimmy Greene, who moved with his family to Newtown from Canada only in July. When his friends expressed their horror on Facebook, he replied. “As much as she’s needed here and missed by her mother, brother and me … Ana beat us all to paradise … I love you, sweetie girl.”
Another victim, Grace McDonnell, seven, lived with her parents just one street away from the house where the gunman lived with his mother, Nancy Lanza. A neighbour, Dorothy Werden, said, “I just choke up when I think about it. Grace was like a little doll, with blonde hair and blue eyes. She was utterly adorable.”
Robbie Parker, 30, the father of a six-year-old victim, Emilie, showed remarkable compassion by extending his support to the family of the gunman. “I cannot imagine how hard this experience is for you. Our love and support goes out to you as well.”
The six-year-old victims were all in first grade classes targeted by Lanza. They included Jesse Lewis, who had been due to make gingerbread houses with the class on Friday afternoon. The boy’s father, Neil Heslin, said that his son had loved maths. “He was just a happy boy. Everybody knew Jesse. He was going to go places in life. He was terrific with animals … He’s been on horses since he was a year-and-a-half old.”