NBCNEWS.COM - As the parents of the children who were murdered by a gunman in a Connecticut elementary school Friday attempt to process the horror of their death, many tried to imagine what the final moments for their loved ones were like.
Several of them came to be consoled by Msgr. Robert Weiss, the pastor of St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church in Newtown, Connecticut. Weiss spoke with Savannah Guthrie on TODAY Saturday about the moment when families were informed by authorities that their children or loved ones had perished in the shooting that claimed the lives of 20 children and six adults.
"I think many of them in their hearts knew their child or their spouse was gone but going with the police last night to confirm that was overwhelming,'' Weiss said. "Many of the questions are just wondering what were the last moments of these people's lives like. They were wondering did the child even know what was happening, were they afraid, did they see something coming? And of course no one can answer that question because there were no survivors, so these parents are left with those unanswered questions in addition to just why this had to happen, why to their child?''
Weiss recalled a mother's excitement earlier in the day that her daughter was going to be an angel in the church's Christmas pageant, another parent looking forward to her daughter making her first Holy Communion, and another's joy over her 5-year-old scoring her first soccer goal. There also was a brutal reminder of the loss from the simple buzzing of a cell phone.
"I was sitting there and one of the alarms went off on (a mother's) phone, and she was supposed to pick up her child to take him to Cub Scouts and realized that was never going to happen again,'' Weiss said. "The emotions of yesterday were just absolutely overwhelming, and I don't know if the reality has really settled in yet.''
Weiss gathered with parents at a local firehouse in Newtown on Friday, some experiencing the joy of being reunited with their children, and others being informed by authorities that their children were among those whose lives were lost.
"It was quite emotional,'' he said. "A number of the children ran over to me, and they were crying and they were hugging me and waiting for their parents to get there. I felt as if they wanted to go home, but I didn't think they wanted to leave their friends either. They weren't sure what was happening.
"When they were taking the attendance and certain names were not called, most people were asked to go into a separate room. Everyone's heart just dropped. They knew something horrible had happened to their child and to their family member.''
Weiss held a vigil at St. Rose of Lima on Friday night, and residents packed the church while hundreds more stood outside, where 26 candles were set up by a tree with a cross. Many left makeshift shrines, toys, Santa balloons, candles and roses around the church's property.
"There are no words,'' he said. "The families that I know so well just said 'thank you for your presence here.' There was a lot of hugging, a lot of crying, a lot of praying and a lot of just being silent. Last night at our vigil, this is the kind of town Newtown is. People came together to care and to support.''
Sandy Hook Elementary is a school of approximately 626 students from kindergarten through fourth grade. First responders to the scene of the murders had to receive counseling.
"We have employee assistance counselors that have been on scene since the inception yesterday for all troopers, all first responders, EMS, fire personnel, and Newtown police officers,'' Lt. J. Paul Vance of the Connecticut state police told Matt Lauer on TODAY Saturday. "It certainly is a travesty. It's a scene that no one should have to encounter. Our hearts are broken for the families of these victims, and it will take a long time for that tear to heal.''
"Many of the families I spoke to yesterday said you know, this world has become so violent at least they know their child is safe, (and) they know where they are,'' Weiss said. "That's a terrible thought for any parent raising a child today to think that they might have to grow up in a world like this. If we work together, good things can happen.''
UPDATE: The suspect in the school shooting killed his mother at their home, then went on school rampage, according to the Associated Press.
UPDATE: The man suspected of gunning down more than two dozen people in a small town in Connecticut is the son of a teacher at the elementary school where the killings occurred, and his mother is presumed to be among the dead. Police say Adam Lanza apparently drove to his mother's school carrying two handguns and a .223-caliber rifle and carried out the massacre. Law enforcement officials are trying to learn as much as possible about the 20-year-old and questioning his older brother, who is not believed to have any involvement in the rampage. So far, authorities have not spoken publicly of any possible motive. Several neighbors of the Lanzas in Sandy Hook, a community about 60 miles northeast of New York City, said they knew little about the family.
UPDATE: A law enforcement official says the suspect in the Connecticut school shootings is 20-year-old Adam Lanza, the son of a teacher at the school where the shootings occurred. A second law enforcement official says the boy's mother, Nancy Lanza, is presumed dead. The first official says Adam Lanza's older brother, 24-year-old Ryan, of Hoboken, N.J., is being questioned by police. An earlier report from a law enforcement official mistakenly transposed the brothers' first names. Both officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak on the record about the developing criminal investigation. The first official said Adam Lanza is dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
UPDATE: Authorities have not officially released the identity of Newtown shooter. There are reports that shooter was carrying someone else's ID.
UPDATE: Police say 27 people were killed in the shooting at a Connecticut elementary school, including the gunman, and one person died at another scene. The dead at the school include 18 children. The gunman opened fire Friday morning inside a school where his mother worked. He blasted his way through the building as young students cowered helplessly in classrooms while their teachers and classmates were shot. The gunman killed himself. Gov. Dannel P. Malloy says someone who lived with him also died. Young students crying and looking frightened were escorted by adults through a parking lot in a line after the shots rang out in Newtown, 60 miles northeast of New York City. The attack comes less than two weeks before Christmas and appears to be the nation's second-deadliest school shooting, exceeded only by the Virginia Tech massacre in 2007.
UPDATE: 20 children are dead, 18 died at the school, two died at the hospital. Six adults were killed. The final death count: 26; 1 injured.
UPDATE: A law enforcement official says the suspect in the Connecticut school shootings is 24-year-old Ryan Lanza and that his younger brother is being held for questioning as a possible second shooter. The law enforcement official says the boys' mother, Nancy Lanza, works at the school as a teacher.
The official also said Ryan Lanza's girlfriend and another friend are missing in New Jersey.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, the official said the suspect is dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because the source was not authorized to speak on the record about the developing criminal investigation
UPDATE: NBC has just reported that the second person taken into custody was the brother of Ryan Lanza and they are investigating his role, if any, in this massacre.
UPDATE: The father of the shooter lived in New Jersey and was found dead in his home. It is believed that the shooter, 24-year-old Ryan Lanza, then drove from New Jersey to the elementary school in Connecticut where his mother was a kindergarten teacher. He then opened fire on his mother and her students taking his mother's life and many others. Authorities are investigating what possible motive the shooter could have had.
UPDATE: According to NBC, the shooter has been identified as 24-year-old Ryan Lanza. NBC also reported that the shooter's mother worked at the school and was among those dead.
UPDATE: A second person has been taken into custody.
UPDATE: A law enforcement official says the attacker in the Connecticut school shootings is a 20-year-old man with ties to the school. The official said that a gun used in the attacks is a .223-caliber rifle. The official also said that New Jersey state police are searching a location in that state in connection with the shootings, said by an official in Connecticut to have left 27 dead, including 18 children. The official in Washington spoke on the condition of anonymity because the source was not authorized to speak on the record about the developing criminal investigation.
UPDATE: The shooter, who has not been identified is 20 years old. There's still no word on a motive or if there was a second shooter.
UPDATE: An official with knowledge of a shooting at a Connecticut elementary school says 27 people are dead, including 18 children. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is still under way. Another official, speaking on condition of anonymity for the same reason, says the gunman is among the dead. The killings happened at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, about 60 miles northeast of New York City. State police say Newtown police called them around 9:40 a.m. A SWAT team was among the throngs of police to respond. Photos from the scene showed young students - some crying, others looking visibly frightened - being escorted by adults through a parking lot in a line, hands on each other's shoulders.
UPDATE: NBC News is reporting that numerous children were shot. It's not clear what their injuries are at this hour or if there are any deaths. We're working on getting you more details.
UPDATE: An official with knowledge of the situation says the gunman was an adult and he has been killed.
The official who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is still under way says the man apparently had two guns.
A dispatcher at the Newtown Volunteer Ambulance Corps says a teacher has been shot in the foot and taken to Danbury Hospital, but it's unclear whether there are other injuries.
Ambulance surrounded Sandy Hook Elementary School in western Connecticut and parents were running toward the building as a helicopter flew overhead.
The superintendent's office says the district has locked down schools.
State police say Newtown police called them at about 9:40 a.m. about the shooting reports.
UPDATE: Three people have been transported to a hospital in Danbury. One gunman is dead. We do not have specifics on the injuries at this time.
UPDATE: NEWTOWN, Conn. (AP) - Connecticut State Police say they are assisting local police in Newtown in response to reports of a shooting at an elementary school.
A dispatcher at the Newtown Volunteer Ambulance Corps says a teacher has been shot in the foot and taken to Danbury Hospital, but it's unclear if that's the only injury.
The superintendent's office says the district has locked down schools.
The shooting was reported at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, in western Connecticut. State police say Newtown police called them at about 9:40 a.m. about the reports.
The Newtown Bee newspaper (http://bit.ly/J4eUyR) posted a photo of a group of young students - some crying, others looking visibly frightened - being escorted by adults through a parking lot in a line, hands on each other's shoulders.
NEWTOWN, Conn. (AP) - Connecticut State Police say they are assisting local police in Newtown amid reports of a shooting at an elementary school. The school superintendent's office says the district has locked down schools to ensure the safety of students and staff. The shooting was reported at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, in western Connecticut. State police say Newtown police called them at about 9:40 a.m. about the reports. The Newtown Bee newspaper (http://bit.ly/J4eUyR) posted a photo of a group of young students - some crying, others looking visibly frightened - being escorted by adults through a parking lot in a line, hands on each other's shoulders. State police spokesman Lt. Paul Vance says they have a number of personnel on the scene to assist.
NEWTOWN, Conn. (WTNH) - All schools in Newtown are in lockdown after a reported shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown.
The school is located at 12 Dickinson Drive. There is no confirmed information from police about who or how many people have been shot.
A witness told News 8 she saw two children, one had a bloody face, the other with a hand injury.
State police spokesman Lt. J. Paul Vance would not confirm what is happening, but he told News 8 that several troopers are responding to the school at the request of Newtown police.
Newtown emergency officials are telling parents to stay by their phone, not to go to the school.
A message posted on the school's website made no mention of the shooting, but said "Afternoon kindergarten is cancelled today, December 14th. There will be no mid-day bus runs."