Library clerk recalls US school shooting nightmare

2012-12-15 22:44

Newtown, Connecticut - Squeezed into a library storage room with 18 crying and confused fourth-graders, Mary Ann Jacob thought it appropriate to tell a lie in the interests of survival.

"We told them it was a drill, so they knew what to do," the library clerk at Sandy Hook Elementary School told reporters Saturday, a day after 20 children and six adults were slain in one of the worst school shootings in US history.

"But we knew it was gunshots because we had made a phone call" earlier to the school office -- a call prompted by bewildering noise over the intercom system -- from where the secretary said a gunman was on the rampage.

"I called the office because I thought it (the intercom noise) was a mistake," Jacob said. "The school secretary answered and she said there was shooting. I'm amazed she answered the phone."

Jacob, whose own teenaged children once attended the school, spoke to reporters at a football field turned al fresco media centre in this prosperous Connecticut town as the sun rose on a freezing cold morning.

She fought back tears as she remembered the principal, Dawn Hochsprung, as "a very dear friend... an amazing woman and a great leader."

"We had a book fair a few weeks ago," Jacob recalled. "She dressed up as the reading fairy... and went around the classrooms putting reading-fairy dust on all the kids. She was strong and fun and the kids loved her."

Another who died Friday, she said, was the school psychologist, who she identified as Mary Sherlock.

Jacob, who has worked at Sandy Hook Elementary School for "four or five years," said she knew nothing about the alleged shooter, Adam Lanza, 20, or his mother who was found dead at a separate location.

But she could describe how the gunman conducted his bloodbath.

"He went in the front door -- if you go into the front door of the building, the office is right in front of you -- and then ... he went by the first classroom and into the next two classrooms where the shooting took place."

Of the slain principal, Jacob said: "I heard she was in a meeting across the hallway (from the two classrooms). She must have come out and confronted him on his way down the hallway."

Told by the school secretary that a shooting was underway, Jacob and two adult colleagues did as they had done so many times before in lock-down drills -- they huddled their young charges behind some bookcases, away from the window.

But they soon discovered that the library door was still unlocked, so they hurriedly relocated to the back storage room that contained some computer servers and, usefully, some art supplies.

"We locked the kids in there," she recalled. "We were, like, this close together. There were crayons and paper in the storage room, so we tore some (paper) off and gave them clipboards and had them colour."

She added: "They were asking, 'What's going on?' We said, 'We don't know, our job is to stay quiet, it may be a drill, but we're just going to stay here.' But we (adults) knew because we had called the office."

So terrified was everyone that they initially refused to come out when police arrived and pounded on the door, which Jacob and her colleagues had buttressed from inside with heavy steel filing cabinets.

More than an hour after the first shots, Jacob and the children had moved on to the safety of a nearby fire station, where pupils were assembled according to their respective classes and worried parents sought their loved ones.

"It became evident pretty quickly that there were almost two full classes missing," Jacob recalled.

"A couple of kids I know had gotten out from those classes -- but for the most part, it was those two first-grade classrooms" that had been cut down in a hail of bullets, she said.


  • Partiboy - 2012-12-15 23:41


  • Benjamin - 2012-12-16 04:23

    America is turning imto the wild west all over again. Too much liberalism perhaps?

      Venessa Born Stubborn Ede - 2012-12-16 05:47

      no, it's got absolutely nothing to do with liberalism and everything with the ridiculous gun control laws, you can buy a gun there like we buy bread and milk here in SA! and the states where it is easiest to buy guns are the conservative ones NOT the liberal ones!

  • Kwanele Mzwanele Masoka - 2012-12-16 06:58

    We told them it was a drill, so they knew what to do... The school management must be commended for drilling those kids to avoid confusion in cases of mishaps. Some schools that I know do not know even the basic fire drills.

      santivz - 2012-12-16 09:54

      And here in SA anyone can walk into a school. At my daughter's school parents are so lazy, they complain when the school door is locked because it means they have to get their lazy arsses out of their cars as to fetch their small children. They prefer driving up and just hooting. My heart goes out to the parents and families of the slain kids and teachers. So sad. :(

  • Sedeshan Naidoo - 2012-12-16 07:31

    it's like vanessa said, guns and ammo are readily available. I recall a special running at a convenience store in which a free rifle was offered after spending a certain amount!

  • eugene.joubert - 2012-12-16 08:41

    Vanessa your comment implies the gun is to blame for the shooting. It takes a person with some motive or reason, however dark the reason, to point and pull the trigger. Am afraid Benjamin has a point to some degree

  • neco.horne - 2012-12-16 10:24

    Venessa gun control has nothing to do with this. South Africa is pretty strict with guns, I own a semi auto assualt rifle (legally) but to obtain one has endless legal red tape and they are just as expensive as in the states. Anywhere between 11.5K and 35k. In south africa with these strict gun control laws you can go out and buy an illegal fully auto ak 47 with ammo for just R1000. Gun control does not work. If you outlaw guns only the outlaws wil have guns. All these mass shootings happen in so called "gun free" zones. While this and all mass shootings are tragic events it can be prevented if the citezens like the teachers in this case were armed. They could have stoped him after the first shots went off. Why do you think there are never any shootings at massive arms fairs or gum shows in the states where everyone is armed? If any shooter tried anything is corps would hit the ground befor he can get the first shot off.

  • neco.horne - 2012-12-16 11:18

    Morgan Freeman's brilliant take on what happened yesterday :"You want to know why. This may sound cynical, but here's why.It's because of the way the media reports it. Flip on the news and watch how we treat the Batman theater shooter and the Oregon mall shooter like celebrities. Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris are household names, but do you know the name of a single *victim* of Columbine? Disturbedpeople who would otherwise just off themselves in their basements see the news and want to top it by doing something worse, and going out in a memorable way. Why a grade school? Why children? Because he'll be remembered as a horrible monster, instead of a sad nobody.CNN's article says that if the body count "holds up", this will rank as the second deadliest shooting behind Virginia Tech, as if statistics somehow make one shooting worse than another. Then they post a video interview of third-graders for all the details of what they saw and heard while the shootings were happening. Fox News has plastered the killer's face on all their reports for hours. Any articles or news stories yet that focus on the victims and ignore the killer's identity? None that I've seen yet. Because they don't sell. So congratulations, sensationalist media, you've just lit the fire for someone to top this and knock off a day care center or a maternity ward next.You can help by forgetting you ever read this man's name, and remembering the name of at least one victim. You can help by donating to mental health research instead of pointing to gun control as the problem. You can help by turning off the news."

      madmom1 - 2012-12-16 23:40

      i just stole your post...sorry... posted it to my Fb, true and bringing me to tears, had not read that any where yet...that is a point of view people REALLY need to hear

  • monroek1 - 2012-12-16 11:37

    Eish Killing innocent kids and denying them right to life

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