, USA TODAY
NEWTOWN, Conn. -- The horror wrought by a lone gunman on this close-knit community crystallized Saturday afternoon as the 26 victims of the Sandy Hook school massacre were publicly identified.
Among the dead were the educators who hailed as heroes -- the school's principal and psychologist, who didn't hesitate to rush toward the sound of the gunfire, and the first-grade teacher who used her body to shield her tiny charges from the bullets. Six of the victims were adults.
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The young victims -- 20 in all -- epitomized the children of that age, bright, smiling faces, some of them missing their front teeth. Most of them were first-graders.
All of them died of multiple gunshot wounds, according to state medical examiner H. Wayne Carver.
The victims included:
Dawn Hochsprung, the school's popular principal. She was known for her enthusiasm, frank opinions and love of teaching. Hochsprung, 47, a veteran teacher and administrator, worked at the school for two years, where those who knew her say she immediately became a beloved figure. Board of Education chairwoman for the Newtown public schools Debbie Liedlien says residents are feeling "a deep sense of loss" over her death.
Town officials say Hochsprung was killed while lunging at the gunman as she tried to overtake him.
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"I would expect her to jump right into the chaos," said neighbor Judith Neukam. "I think she would have felt responsible for it and she would have taken that responsibility."
Family friend Fraser Randolph, 60, of Danbury, has known Hochsprung and her husband, George, for more than 15 years. He said Hochsprung and her husband, who is also a teacher, often talked about educational policies over dinner with him.
"She was always talking about education--always looking for ways to solve problems, communicate better with parents and break down administrative barriers to better serve the needs of kids," Randolph said.
Mary Sherlach spent most of her professional life trying to help kids from taking a wrong turn.
A school psychologist at the Sandy Hook Elementary School since August 1994, she worked closely with students, parents and teachers.
I "am always ready to assist in problem solving, intervention and prevention," Sherlach, 56, wrote on her professional website.
She died while trying to protect others, Diane Day, a therapist who works at the school, told The Wall Street Journal.
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When reached at Scherlach's home in Trumbull, Conn., a friend of the family read a statement that was written by Scherlach's daughter Maura Schwartz.
"There are no words to describe the devastating loss that we feel at this time," it said. "Our family has lost a loving mother, dedicated wife and above all, a wonderful, caring woman who was beyond dedicated to her students."
Victoria Soto was known as Miss Victoria Soto in Room 10, a smiling teacher who underscored her enthusiasm over teaching first-graders with exclamation points.
On her page on the school's website, she wrote: "I absolutely love teaching first grade!'' and "I look forward to an amazing year in first grade with my amazing students of room 10!"
Soto's lifelong dream was to be a teacher.
"She was all about molding those young minds," her cousin, James Wiltsie, told ABC News.
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The 27-year-old died in the classroom she loved, reportedly making the ultimate sacrifice Friday by sheltering her students in a classroom closet and coming between them and the gunman, Wiltsie said.
It's not clear how many of Soto's students died.
Gillian Chanko is now 13 and in 8th grade but remembers Soto as a young teachers' aide.
"She was really, really nice," she said. "It didn't surprise me that she was one of the first to try to save her kids."
Soto still lived where she grew up in Stratford, Conn. She graduated from Eastern Connecticut State University and was getting a master's in special education at Southern Connecticut State University.
"I love to spend time with black lab Roxie," she wrote. "I love spending time with my brother, sisters and cousins. ... I also love flamingos and the New York Yankees."
Wiltsie told ABC: "Unfortunately, she lost her life, but knowing the way she lost it, I'm proud to call her family. ... She was a hero trying to protect the children."
Emilie Parker, 6, was a blonde blue-eyed first-grader, an artist who always toted around her crayons and paper. She was a big sister to two younger sisters who always turned to her for comfort.
In an emotional press conference, Emilie's father, Robert, described the last conversation he had with his eldest daughter. He was teaching her Portuguese, and she asked him how he was doing.
"She told me she loved me, and I walked out the door," he said. Robert Parker kept his composure as he spoke but became emotional as he described how his two younger girls always turned to Emilie when they needed comfort.
"She was the type of person who could light up a room," he said. "She is an incredible person and I'm so blessed to be her dad."
Parker said he didn't know how he and his wife would get through this tragedy.
He and his family moved to Newtown eight months ago when he accepted a job as a physician assistant in the neonatal intensive care unit at the Danbury hospital. He said he was at the hospital when he heard about the shooting from his wife. He said at first he thought it couldn't have been very serious, but as the day wore on, the enormity of it hit him, he said.
"I don't know how to get through this," he said.
A Facebook page created by the family shows Emilie at baseball games with her father and watching over her younger sisters. The family plans to return her remains to Utah, where they are originally from.
Olivia Engel was a "wiggly, smiley 6-year-old," according to Dan Merton, a longtime friend of the girl's family. On the day she was slain, Merton said, she was simply excited to go to school and return home and make a gingerbread house.
"She loved attention," he said. "She had perfect manners, perfect table manners. She was the teacher's pet, the line leader."
Charlotte Bacon, 6, "could light up the room for anyone," her uncle John Hagen told Newsday. "She was going to go some places in this world," he said.
On Friday, she had begged her mother to let her wear her new pink dress and boots to school. It was the last outfit the outgoing redhead would ever pick out.
Charlotte's older brother, Guy, was also in the school but was not shot.
Chase Kowalski, 7, was always outside, playing in the backyard, riding his bicycle, according to neighbor Kevin Grimes.
"You couldn't think of a better child," Grimes said.
Just last week, the young boy told Grimes that he had completed -- and won -- his first mini-triathlon.
Anne Marie Murphy, 52, who worked at Sandy Hook Elementary School, was remembered as a good mother, wife and a hard-working teacher.
Murphy's parents, Hugh and Alice McGowan, told Newsday that police said their daughter was a hero who helped shield some of her students from the rain of bullets.
Jesse Lewis loved math and horse-back riding. The 6-year-old was in Soto's class, his father Neil Heslin told the New York Post.
"He was just a happy boy," Heslin told the paper.
Jesse lived on a horse farm, Wild Rose Farm, with his mother. He loved to play with the animals on the farm and had been horseback riding since he was 1 and 1/2 years old.
Neighbor Judy Petro said she occasionally saw Jesse riding with his mother, Scarlett, as the pair cut through the Petros' property to reach a horse trail in the neighborhood.
"They rode horses, and we gave her permission to ride through our land to get to the trail that the horses go on. Once in a while her son came with her. She's a very nice woman and very generous. It's just horrible that it happened. The whole thing is just unbelievable,'' Petro said.
Another neighbor, Irene Arfaras, described Scarlett Lewis as "very friendly'' and "a hard worker'' for running the farm in addition to a day job.
Scarlett Lewis is the author of Rose's Foal, a children's book she wrote about a draft horse and how she teaches her foal about life. In an author's note on Amazon, she said she wrote the book about the foal, born the day after 9/11, in honor of her sons.
She described taking photographs for the book with her son "in a red Flyer Wagon with his blanket and pacifier waiting patiently in the background.'' What Lewis wrote about the now deceased draft horse could now be said about her own child: "We miss her dearly every day, and this book also helps keep her memory alive. Of course we look forward to seeing her in heaven."
Ana Marquez-Greene, 6, was the daughter of jazz saxophonist Jimmy Greene. She, her parents and older brother moved to Newtown this summer from Manitoba, Canada, where Greene taught music. Greene thanked friends on Facebook, according to the Ottawa Citizen. "As we work through this nightmare, we're reminded how much we're loved and supported on this earth and by our Father in heaven. As much as she's needed here and missed by her mother, brother and me, Ana beat us all to paradise. I love you sweetie girl," his post said.
Lauren Rousseau, 30, had spent years working as a substitute teacher and doing other jobs. So she was thrilled when she finally realized her goal this fall to become a full-time teacher at Sandy Hook. Her mother, Teresa Rousseau, does not hold back when describing what the job meant to her daughter. "It was the best year of her life," she told the Danbury News-Times, where she is a copy editor. Rousseau has been called gentle, spirited and active. She had planned to see The Hobbit with her boyfriend Friday and had baked cupcakes for a party they were to attend afterward. She was a Danbury native, a graduate of the University of Connecticut and the University of Bridgeport, a lover of music, dance and theater. "I'm used to having people die who are older," her mother said, "not the person whose room is up over the kitchen."
Noah Pozner, 6, is the youngest of five children. His parents are divorced and his mother, Veronica, is a nurse, said Rabbi Shaul Praver of Congregation Adath Israel. He was at the firehouse yesterday with parents and will be buried on Sunday as is Jewish custom.
Benjamin Wheeler was 6 and a relative newcomer to Newtown. He was one of two sons of David and Francine Wheeler. David is a writer and performer with the Flagpole Shakespeare Repertory Theater. According to his biography on the website, he and his wife and two sons just moved to Newtown in April 2011. They had lived in New York City before that, where David Wheeler worked as an actor on stage, film and television.
The parents of Catherine Hubbard, 6, released a statement expressing gratitude to emergency responders and for the support of the community.
"We are greatly saddened by the loss of our beautiful daughter, Catherine Violet and our thoughts and prayers are with the other families who have been affected by this tragedy," Jennifer and Matthew Hubbard said. "We ask that you continue to pray for us and the other families who have experienced loss in this tragedy."
Daniel Barden, 7
Rachel Davino, 29, school staff
Josephine Gay, 7
Dylan Hockley, 6
Madeleine Hsu, 6
Grace McDonnell, 7
Jack Pinto, 6
Caroline Previdi, 6
Jessica Rekos, 6
Avielle Richman, 6
Allison Wyatt, 6
Nancy Lanza, 52
Contributing: The Associated Press