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This chilling photograph reveals the terrible moment on Friday when parents Chris and Lynn McDonnell learned their precious seven-year-old daughter, Gracie, was one of the 20 children shot to death inside Sandy Hook Elementary School.
Chris McDonnell looks to the heavens with his eyes closed as if asking God why his beloved daughter had been taken from him, while wife Lynn cries on the shoulder of a friend lost in her anguish.
The devastated parents haven’t spoken yet about their pain, but Gracie’s grandmother Mary Ann McDonnell has told of her shock at the terrible tragedy.
Awful news: The moment when Chris and Lynn McDonnell were told their daughter Gracie was a victim of gunman Adam Lanza
‘I don’t know what the hell Chris and Lynn are going to do,’ she told the Boston Herald.
The former nurse has described how she was supposed to celebrate her 77th birthday on Friday with Gracie and her older brother, Jack.
‘Chris had taken Friday off so he could cook us all a big Italian meal,’ she said. Her grand-daughter, she said, was a ‘free spirit with dancing eyes.’
Like so many people, Mary Ann is mystified why someone would want to commit such an horrific crime and destroy her family’s happiness 'in the space of a nanosecond.'
A neighbor of the McDonnell family, Dorothy Werden, 49, described Gracie as 'utterly adorable' and 'full of life.'
'I just choke up when I think about it,’ she told MailOnline. 'I used to see her waiting for the school bus over the road from our house every day.
'She had blonde hair and blue eyes - she was like a little Barbie doll.'
'Blonde hair and blue eyes': Grace McDonnell was described by neighbor Dorothy Werden as 'like a little Barbie doll'
The grieving Connecticut town is preparing on Monday to bury the first two of the 20 small victims, while there is discussion about when classes can resume - and where, given the carnage in the building and the children's associations with it.
The people of Newtown aren't yet ready to address the question just three days after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, and a day after President Barack Obama pledged to seek change in memory of the children and six adults ruthlessly slain by a gunman packing a high-powered rifle.
'We're just now getting ready to talk to our son about who was killed,' said Robert Licata, the father of a student who escaped harm during the shooting. 'He's not even there yet.'
Newtown officials couldn't say whether Sandy Hook Elementary, where authorities said all the victims were shot at least twice, would ever reopen. State police Lt. Paul Vance said Monday at a news conference that it could be months before police turn the school back over to the district.
Monday classes were canceled and Newtown's other schools were to reopen Tuesday. The district was making plans to send surviving Sandy Hook students to a former school building in a neighboring town, but they didn't say when that would happen.
President Obama speaks at an interfaith vigil on Sunday night for the shooting victims from Sandy Hook Elementary School
Adam Lanza, 20, shoot 26 people dead, 20 of them schoolchildren aged six and seven, and then shot himself dead at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut on Friday
The gunman, 20-year-old Adam Lanza, was carrying an arsenal of hundreds of rounds of especially deadly ammunition, authorities said Sunday - enough to kill just about every student in the school if given enough time, raising the chilling possibility that the bloodbath could have been even worse.
The shooter decided to kill himself when he heard police closing in about 10 minutes into Friday's attack, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said on ABC's 'This Week.'
At the interfaith service in Newtown on Sunday evening, Obama said he would use 'whatever power this office holds' to engage with law enforcement, mental health professionals, parents and educators in an effort to prevent more tragedies like Newtown.
'What choice do we have?' Obama said on a stark stage that held only a small table covered with a black cloth, candles and the presidential podium. 'Are we really prepared to say that we're powerless in the face of such carnage, that the politics are too hard?'
The president first met privately with families of the victims and with the emergency personnel who responded to the shooting. Police and firefighters got hugs and standing ovations when they entered for the public vigil, as did Obama.'We needed this,' said the Rev. Matt Crebbin, senior minister of the Newtown Congregational Church.
'We need to be together here in this room. ... We needed to be together to show that we are together and united.'
As Obama read some of the names of victims early in his remarks, sobs resonated throughout the hall. He closed by slowly reading the first names of each of the 20 children.
'God has called them all home,' he said. 'For those of us who remain, let us find the strength to carry on and make our country worthy of their memory.'
The first funerals were planned Monday for Jack Pinto, a 6-year-old New York Giants fan who might be buried in wide receiver Victor Cruz's jersey, and Noah Pozner, a boy of the same age who liked to figure out how things worked mechanically.
'He was just a really lively, smart kid,' said Noah's uncle Alexis Haller, of Woodinville, Wash. 'He would have become a great man, I think. He would have grown up to be a great dad.'
Veronika Pozner, mother of Noah Pozner, arrives for her son's funeral on Monday at the Abraham L. Green and Son Funeral Home in Fairfield, Connecticut
Six-year-old Noah Pozner was one of the victims in the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting
With more funerals planned this week, the road ahead for Newtown - which had already started purging itself of Christmas decorations in a joyful season turned mournful - was clouded.
'I feel like we have to get back to normal, but I don't know if there is normal anymore,' said Kim Camputo, mother of two children, ages 5 and 10, who attend a different school. 'I'll definitely be dropping them off and picking them up myself for a while.'
Jim Agostine, superintendent of schools in nearby Monroe, said plans were being made for students from Sandy Hook to attend classes in his town this week.
Newtown police Lt. George Sinko said he 'would find it very difficult' for students to return to the same school where they came so close to death. But, he added, 'We want to keep these kids together. They need to support each other.'
Connecticut Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor said state construction employees are advising on renovating Sandy Hook, which serves grades kindergarten through four.
Authorities say the gunman shot his mother, Nancy Lanza, at their home and then took her car and several of her guns to the school, where he broke in and shot his victims to death, then himself.
A Connecticut official said the mother was found dead in her pajamas in bed, shot four times in the head with a .22-caliber rifle.
During his later rampage, terrified staffers at the school stayed hidden for hours, not knowing how many shooters there were.
Divorce paperwork released Monday showed that Nancy Lanza had the authority to make all decisions regarding Adam's upbringing. The divorce was finalized in September 2009, when Adam Lanza was 17.
Federal agents have concluded that Lanza visited an area shooting range, but they do not know whether he actually practiced shooting there. Ginger Colbrun, a spokeswoman for the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, would not identify the range or say how recently he was there.
Agents determined Lanza's mother visited shooting ranges several times, but it's not clear whether she took her son or whether he fired a weapon there, Colbrun said.
A law enforcement official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said investigators are reviewing the contents of Lanza's computer, as well as phone and credit card records, in an effort to piece together his activities leading up to the shooting. The official was not authorized to discuss the details of the case.
Mourners arrive at the Honan Funeral Home for the burial of six-year-old Jack Pinto on Monday
Sandy Hook shooting victim Jack Pinto who was buried Monday
Lanza took classes at Western Connecticut State University when he was 16, and earned a B average, said Paul Steinmetz, spokesman for the school in Danbury. He said Monday that Lanza took his last class in the summer of 2009 and didn't return.
Investigators have offered no motive, and police have found no letters or diaries that could shed light on it. They believe Lanza attended Sandy Hook many years ago, but they couldn't explain why he went there Friday. Authorities said Lanza had no criminal history, and it was not clear whether he had a job.
Lanza is believed to have used a Bushmaster AR-15 rifle in the school attack, a civilian version of the military's M-16 and a model commonly seen at marksmanship competitions. It's similar to the weapon used in a recent shopping mall shooting in Oregon.
Versions of the AR-15 were outlawed in the United States under the 1994 assault weapons ban. That law expired in 2004, and Congress, in a nod to the political clout of the gun-rights lobby, did not renew it.
In some of the first regulatory proposals to rise out of the Newtown shooting, Democratic lawmakers and independent Sen. Joe Lieberman said Sunday that military-style assault weapons should be banned and that a national commission should be established to examine mass shootings.
'Assault weapons were developed for the U.S. military, not commercial gun manufacturers,' said Lieberman, of Connecticut, who is retiring next month. 'This is a moment to start a very serious national conversation about violence in our society, particularly about these acts of mass violence.'
Gun rights activists remained largely quiet, all but one declining to appear on the Sunday talk shows. In an interview on Fox News Sunday, Rep. Louie Gohmert, a Texas Republican, defended the sale of assault weapons and said that the principal at Sandy Hook, who authorities say died trying to overtake the shooter, should herself have been armed.
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Crime in Connecticut
Newtown, Conn. -- Friday turned out to be the darkest day of the year. It was a day to hug your kids, or call a parent or a friend, or do something that for a moment might dispel some of that darkness. The news got worse with every bulletin. Shots fired in an elementary school in Connecticut. Three dead. No, many dead. Children shot. Children killed. Kindergarteners.
Newtown, Conn., became Everytown, America, on this grim Friday. By mid-afternoon, the scale of the horror became clear: Twenty children had been murdered, plus six of their protectors. The crime took another sick turn with news that the killer was the son of one of the teachers. This appeared Friday night to be a matricide that evolved into mass murder.
All this happened during the holiday season, as people around the country prepared for a big shopping weekend, or got ready for relatives coming to town or kids coming home from college. This is family time, a season of joy. Light the candles, decorate the tree.
Tragedies can’t be weighed and measured easily, though we try to do that with statistics, and chart the number of dead and wounded in our mass shootings. Just this summer, the country dealt with the tragedy in Aurora, Colo., when a madman shot up a midnight movie. We all remember the terrible events at Virginia Tech and Columbine High School, crimes on an exaggerated scale, saturated in hatred and madness. America has become a nation all too familiar with mass murder, to the point where it seems to have become an inextricable element of our society.
But nothing could have prepared the country for what happened Friday. This felt different, a ratcheting up of the evil, because so many of the victims were small children. On Twitter, people were almost speechless at first, struggling to fill even the 140-character allotment. Because what could you say? Other than “No, no, no“?
Silence is the right response in such a moment, decided David Lantigua, a moral theology professor at Catholic University: “Our initial response should be careful not to attempt to explain away the suffering by identifying some cause,“ he wrote in a long, anguished contemplation of the Connecticut shooting. “We are not prepared as a society to face such evil without first responding to the countless victims and their families. And this calls for silence. Only silence will enable us to weep and grieve with those who are weeping right now.“
The news coverage was sketchy much of the day. The spokesman for the state police used procedural language to describe the securing of the crime scene, the “several fatalities“ and the fact that “the shooter is deceased.“ There was no obvious motive for the heinous act, and the shooter was misidentified by news organizations for much of the day. TV crews, desperate for information, interviewed children on camera, which drew protests online from people who felt the interviews were invasive.
As Friday wore on, people around the country found their voices. Many spoke about gun violence, and the mechanization of depravity. Or they talked about mental illness and the lack of access to good mental health care.
“We’re sick,“ said Patty Hassler, spokeswoman for the Children’s Defense Fund, a children’s advocacy organization. “It just makes you sick to your stomach, and your heart is pierced by every bullet that was shot.“
The president of the organization, Marian Wright Edelman, released a blistering statement: “What is it going to take to stop the craziness of gun violence in this country? How young do the victims have to be and how many children need to die before we stop the proliferation of guns in our nation? We can’t just talk about it and then do nothing until the next shooting when we will profess shock again.“
The National Shooting Sports Foundation, which is based in Newtown and is the trade association for the firearms industry, issued a very brief statement: “Our hearts go out to the families of the victims of this horrible tragedy in our community. Out of respect for the families, the community and the ongoing police investigation, it would be inappropriate to comment or participate in media requests at this time.“
House Speaker John Boehner said: “The horror of this day seems so unbearable, but we will lock arms and unite as citizens, for that is how Americans rise above unspeakable evil.“
Around midday, soon after the news broke, the president’s press secretary, Jay Carney, declined to get into gun control when he addressed the press corps: “There is, I’m sure - will be, rather - a day for discussion of the usual Washington policy debates, but I don’t think today is that day.“
The president came into the press room later in the afternoon and kept his remarks apolitical, speaking as a father. “The majority of those who died today were children - beautiful little kids between the ages of 5 and 10 years old,“ Obama said, and then he paused for 13 seconds, seemingly trying to avoid choking up. “They had their entire lives ahead of them, birthdays, graduations, weddings“ - he quickly wiped away a tear - “kids of their own.“
Every massacre is different, except for the central feature of the killer’s indifference to the suffering of the innocent. In China, hours before the Connecticut attack, a man with a knife attacked and wounded 22 children and one adult outside an elementary school.
Evil? Some people won’t use that word, among them Melissa Grady, an assistant professor of social work at Catholic University. She’s an expert on sexual violence against children, and she and her colleagues deal with disturbing crimes and depraved individuals. She looks at multiple factors in a crime, looking at each stage in the decision process - what the experts call behavioral chain analysis.
“It’s everything, it’s prevention of mental illness, it’s gun control, it’s having a more responsive criminal justice system,“ she said. She added, “Isn’t this a time for a conversation about better access to mental health services?“
She and her colleagues gathered for a Christmas party Friday afternoon, but they were all rattled by the news from Connecticut. “I wish there was a quick, easy answer,“ she said. “But there isn’t.“
Les Miserables: Stars out for world premiere of film musical
Stars of the new Les Miserables film, including Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe and Anne Hathaway, have attended the world premiere in central London.
Director Tom Hooper - who won an Oscar for the King's Speech - hopes his film will win over people who avoid musicals, he said at the event.
The film is based on the long-running stage musical that has been seen by 60 million people worldwide.
Hooper said: "I wanted to invite all 60 million fans here tonight."
In the event, it was some 3,000 guests who braved a chilly night in the West End to watch the film in two of Leicester Square's largest cinemas.
Among them were the cast of the West End stage production who were given the night off to attend the premiere.
Based on Victor Hugo's epic French novel, Les Miserables is set against social and political upheavals in 19th Century France.
Crowe plays police inspector Javert who hunts Jackman's ex-convict Jean Valjean after he breaks parole.
Hathaway, who plays factory worker turned prostitute Fantine, had to lose almost two stone and have her hair cropped for the role.
She admitted: "It was very challenging to my vanity but as soon as it was done I was fine with it. It was for my job."
The musical features the songs I Dreamed A Dream, Bring Him Home, One Day More and On My Own.
Unusually for a musical film, the actors sang live on set instead of pre-recording their vocals in a studio.
Amanda Seyfried, who plays Cosette, admitted she found it a very different experience to miming in the Mama Mia movie.
"I'm not an accomplished singer, so I had some trouble with the stamina aspect of singing all day long," she said.
Australian actor Hugh Jackman said London was the perfect place for the premiere, calling it the musical's "spiritual home".
"I know this is the quintessential French story, but the musical took hold here," he said.
He joked that it was not the first time he had duetted with co-star Crowe. "I've know Russell for years, and if you ever go to a Russell Crowe party you end up singing."
The film is released in the UK on 11 January 2013.
The cast also includes Eddie Redmayne as student Marius, Samantha Barks as Eponine (a role she also played on stage) and Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter as comedy villains the Thenardiers.
Redmayne said he underwent months of vocal coaching. "You couldn't drink - it was like an athletic workout. As soon as the film was over it was straight back to the pub!"
Tom Hooper, who won an Oscar in 2011, said the world premiere marked the end of a "very long and hard journey for the team".
Explaining his decision to make the actors sing live, he said: "I thought that was the key to making this an emotional and intense experience, and to bring all those people into the fold who are not sure a musical is for them.
"Trust me it will make you feel differently about the musical genre."
Cameron Mackintosh, who produced the original London musical in 1985 and the new film, told the BBC on the red carpet: "If it wasn't for London embracing the show, despite iffy notices, we would not be here tonight."
Talking about the stage and film versions, he added: "It's not that one is better than the other. There's no substitute for a live performance done wonderfully well, but this film brings you close-ups that give you a bigger emotional dynamic, and parts of the story are far clearer.
"I do think the film has the same ability as the stage show to make people want to go back and see it again and again."
The original French stage version of Les Miserables - by lyricist Alain Boublil and composer Claude-Michel Schonberg - ran in Paris in 1980.
The London production, which opened in October 1985, has gone on to become the world's longest-running musical