One week before the one-year anniversary of the shooting that took 26 lives at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., the release of 911 calls from the first anguished moments has revived the pain of families who fought to prevent them from being made public.
“It will affect our community, certainly, and it will affect our families,” Nicole Hockley, whose 6-year-old son Dylan was murdered, told MSNBC. “And I think as parents it’s just down to us to ensure our children and families are protected from hearing those for as long as possible.”
Indeed, prior to the release, Newtown School Superintendent John Reed sent an email to parents Tuesday to prepare them for the “emotional trigger” the tapes could represent. And just one week ago, an investigative report left additional questions unanswered as it concluded that gunman Adam Lanza’s motive “may never be answered.”
Lanza, 20, had entered the school on Dec. 14, 2012, after shooting his mother dead at their home. As his 11-minute rampage at the school ended, he turned the gun on himself.
The 911 tapes – made public by the state’s Freedom of Information Commission – capture a mix of fear and confusion, panic and calm, as emergency dispatch operators work to assess the initial alarm.
“We need help at the school,” says an urgent female voice in the first call. “I think there’s somebody shooting in here at Sandy Hook School.”
Responds the dispatcher: “Okay what makes you think that?”
“Because somebody’s got a gun,” comes the anxious reply. “I caught a glimpse of somebody. They’re running down the hallway. They’re still shooting. Sandy Hook school, please!”
Another female caller, after giving the school’s address to the 911 operator: “It sounds like there are gunshots in the hallway, and I’m a teacher in the school.” Assuring the operator that all her students were safe at that point in her classroom, the teacher says: “The door’s not locked yet. I have to go lock the door.”
Says the operator: “Keep everybody calm. Get everybody down. Keep everybody away from the windows.”
Another call, this time from a male who identifies himself as the acting head custodian: “I keep hearing shooting, I keep hearing popping. Something’s happening. Now it’s silent. All the doors are locked, kids are in classrooms. There’s still shooting going on! Please!”
From there comes the first report of injury – a female caller in Room 1, shot in the foot and protecting a room full of kids, and told by the dispatcher to apply pressure to the wound.
“Are you safe right now?” the dispatcher asks.
“I think so. My classroom door is not locked.”
And later, from the dispatcher: “We have people coming, all right? Are you okay right now?”
Comes the reply: “For now, hopefully.”