As the state reeled from a school shooting in Newtown that left 27 dead, Gov. Dannel Malloy called on the public to pray for the families of the slain children and all those who “suffered so mightily today.”
Malloy made those comments during a 6 p.m. press conference near Newtown’s Sandy Hook Elementary School, where a gunman killed 20 children and six adults Friday morning before killing himself.
Malloy said he was mayor of Stamford during the 9/11 terrorist attacks. “I never thought that in a public career that I would have to face these kind of circumstances, or that they would visit themselves” upon Newtown or Connecticut, he said.
The brutal attack riveted the nation’s attention, prompting a statement by President Barack Obama. As New Haveners turned their attention to the tragedy, local cops offered help to Newtown and fanned out to New Haven schools. A candle-light vigil was planned for Saturday at 6 p.m. on the Green.
At an earlier press conference, Malloy called Friday’s incident “a tragedy of unspeakable terms.”
“Earlier today a number of our citizens —beautiful children—had their lives taken away from them,” Malloy said. The gunman also killed adults who were charged with teaching and caring for the children, Malloy said.
In New Haven, police spokesman Officer Dave Hartman said police placed a call to the Newtown police department after the incident, offering assistance. Newtown has all the resources it needs right now, Hartman said.
Nevertheless, New Haven cops prepped two mobile command post vehicles—cleaned and filled with gas, Hartman said. “In case they call.”
“We have dispatched officers to all our elementary schools,” Hartman said. Police aren’t concerned about “copycats,” but they realized that people have Newtown on their minds today and may need reassurance. “It’s much more about making sure people realize police are there.”
Police Chief Dean Esserman said he ordered all cops out of the police station, including detectives and supervisors, to check in on all city schools. Esserman said he personally visited five schools. He said he wanted cops to be a “quiet presence and a calming presence” as people grapple with the tragedy.
Reggie Mayo, superintendent of schools, released a statement Friday afternoon. “All of our children at all of our schools are safe. The safety of our students is our first priority,” he said.
“As part of heightened security measures throughout the city after the Newtown shooting, Police Chief Dean Esserman has stationed a police officer at every school and additional officers in the area of schools. The school district asked principals and school security to be on heightened alert.
“We have contacted all of our principals and asked them and their security officials to be on heightened alert throughout the afternoon and through dismissal time. We are working with schools to make sure grief counseling is available to any child who needs it.”
Hillhouse High School Principal Kermit Carolina said he got on the intercom at the end of the day to make an announcement. He didn’t mention the tragedy directly, in case kids hadn’t heard about it.
“I did just remind kids how precious life is,” he said. He urged them to “take full advantage of life,” and to tell their friends and family they love them. “We should do what we can to help other people in need.”
The last time New Haven had a school shooting was on Dec. 13, 1978.
Dr. Steven Marans at the Yale Child Study Center said he’s waiting to hear if the center will be working with children affected by the shooting.
U.S. Rep. Rosa Delauro released a statement: “This is a terrible, senseless, incomprehensible tragedy and my thoughts and prayers are with everyone in Newtown and Sandy Hook Elementary School. I have been in touch with the Governor’s office and other officials and will do everything in my power to be there for the affected families.”
Gov. Dannel Malloy ordered flags to fly at half-mast until the victims are buried. Malloy was expected to hold a press conference at 3:30 p.m.
President Barack Obama issued an official proclamation at 3:15 p.m, ordering flags to fly at half-mast across the country until sundown Dec. 18 to honor the victims of the tragedy.
The president gave an emotional statement at 3:15 p.m. “Our hearts are broken for the parents of the survivors as well, for as blessed as they are to have their children home tonight, they know that their children’s innocence has been torn away from them too early, and there are no words that will ease their pain,” he said.
By email, Mayor John DeStefano said, “The world watches America as the tragic news unfolds of one senseless death after another is confirmed. There is little that can be said to ease the shock and pain that everyone carries in their heart today from this unthinkable tragedy in Newtown.
“Today, everyone is a Newtowner, everyone is a Nutmegger and everyone is a parent. Today, we all share in the pain together as one. The best way we can honor the memory of those lost today is for America to have a real conversation on gun control.”
Interfaith Cooperative Ministries announced it would hold a candle-light vigil for victims of the shooting at 6 p.m. Saturday at the flag pole on the New Haven Green. “This will be a
simple interfaith service of prayer and silence, a chance for our community to come together to offer one another light in the shadow of this terrible tragedy,” said Rev. John Green, pastor at the United Church on the Green.
Paul Bass and Melissa Bailey contributed reporting.