WASHINGTON — When they went to school on Friday, Dec. 14, the six Sandy Hook educators who ultimately gave their lives for children had no idea “that evil was about to strike.”
That is what President Barack Obama said as he talked about their bravery and discussed how they could have hidden to save themselves.
“But they didn’t; they gave their lives to protect the precious children in their care,’’ Obama said. “They gave all they had to the most innocent and helpless among us.”
And so Dawn Hochsprung, Victoria Soto, Mary Sherlach, Lauren Rousseau, Rachel Davino and Anne Marie Murphy were honored posthumously with the Presidential Citizens Medal Friday during an emotional ceremony at the White House.
The six educators died when 20-year-old Adam Lanza, of Newtown, shot his way through a glass window at the school and opened fire on people in the hallways and classrooms with a semiautomatic rifle. Though an official police report has not been released, witnesses say the educators and administrators died while trying to fight off Lanza and/or stand between him and children. All told, 20 children died in the attack before Lanza shot and killed himself.
During Friday's ceremony, Obama noted there are 315 million Americans and, of them, about 6,000 were nominated for the citizens medal, the nation's second highest civilian honor. It recognizes those who have performed "exemplary deeds of service for their country and their fellow citizens." Obama said 18 people were chosen this year because of who they are and what they represent.
They were honored, he said, “for the shining example you set and for the inspiration you give us every single day.”
And Obama had this "special note" for the families of Sandy Hook.
“We are so blessed to be with you," he said. "I have gotten to know many of you through the course of some very difficult weeks. Your courage and love for each other and your community shines through every single day.”
He said the names of the courageous women from Sandy Hook will forever be etched into the heart of our nation.
“Some of these individuals had joined Sandy Hook Elementary School only weeks before; others were preparing to retire after decades of service,” he said. “All had dedicated themselves to their students and their community, working long past the school bell to give the children in their care a future worthy of their talents.”
Newtown First Selectman Pat Llodra and Newtown Superintendent of Schools Janet Robinson were among those in attendance. Both were overwhelmed with pride for their community.
“I thought it was a great honor for these heroes,” Robinson said.