Children at the door: Our teacher is dead
A retired psychologist recounts how he found six children sitting in his driveway moments after they escaped the school massacre
They were sitting in a neat semicircle — six shell-shocked little refugees — when Gene Rosen found them at the end of his driveway.
Rosen didn’t know it at the time, but the four girls and two boys had just escaped the horrific massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
“They began to talk,” he recalled on Monday, “and one of the boys said, ‘We can’t go back to school. We can’t go back to school, because our teacher is gone. Mrs. Soto is dead! We can’t go back to school’. They said, ‘They shot her, they shot her! There was blood coming out of her mouth’.”
He added, “I couldn’t take this in. I couldn’t fathom this,” said Rosen, a 69-year-old retired psychologist who’d just returned from having breakfast at a local diner.
“I looked down, and I saw these six children on the lawn. I had no idea why they were there. I thought they were there doing a skit or something. And then I saw a man just kind of screaming at them and saying, ‘It’s going to be all right! It’s going to be all right’. And I thought that was so peculiar — is that part of a play? But “I could see the kids were in tears. They were terrified.”
Rosen quickly gathered up the frightened first-graders and took them into his home, along with a woman who said she was a school-bus driver. Using phone numbers provided by the driver, he called the kids’ parents.
He gave them juice and stuffed animals and listened in disbelief as they recounted the nightmare. The children’s teacher, Victoria Soto (27), died after she confronted gunman Adam Lanza as he burst into her classroom.
Six of her pupils were also killed as they tried to escape. The six who turned up at Rosen’s home apparently ran out of the school past her body.
“[One] boy said, ‘There was a big gun and a little gun.’ And then they kept repeating that they could not go back to the school because they didn’t have a teacher,’’ Rosen said.
Their parents gradually came to get the kids. But, a few hours after all the children had been picked up, “something really horrible happened,” Rosen said.
“A mother knocked on my door, and she gave me the name of a child. She said, ‘I heard you had six children on your driveway. Was one of them mine?’”
“Her face was frozen in terror.” Later, an emotional Rosen said, “I looked at the casualty list, and her child was on it.”
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