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NEWTOWN, CT: Reliving Horror and Faint Hope at Massacre Site

January 29, 2013

You saw them lifeless, laying down, for a split second, your mind says could this be a mock crime scene, could this be fake, but in the next split second, you’re saying, there is no way. This is real.

— Officer Leonard Penna,
school resource officer

Early responders at Sandy Hook Elementary included, from left: Lt. Christopher Vanghele, Officer Jason Flynn, Officer Leonard Penna, Detective Jason Frank and Officer William Chapman. Photo by Karsten Moran for The New York Times

©2013 By RAY RIVERA, The New York Times

NEWTOWN, Conn. — The gunfire ended; it was so quiet they could hear the broken glass and bullet casings scraping under their boots. The smell of gunpowder filled the air. The officers turned down their radios; they did not want to give away their positions if there was still a gunman present.

They found the two women first, their bodies lying on the lobby floor. Now they knew it was real. But nothing, no amount of training, could prepare them for what they found next, inside those two classrooms.

“One look, and your life was absolutely changed,” said Michael McGowan, one of the first police officers to arrive at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Dec. 14, as a gunman, in the space of minutes, killed 20 first graders and 6 adults.

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