'Always smiling': Portraits of Conn. victims
BY MATT SEDENSKY Associated Press
Sunday, December 16, 2012
12/16/12 at 4:12 AM
Related Story: Conn. town mourns as police look for answers
Original Print Headline: 'Always smiling': Portraits of tragedy
Most died at the very start of their young lives, tiny victims taken in a way not fit no matter one's age. Others found their life's work in sheltering these little ones, teaching them, caring for them, treating them as their own.
Here is a glimpse of some of those 20 students and six adults who died in Newtown, Conn.:
Emilie Parker, 6,
Quick to cheer up those in need of a smile, Emilie Parker never missed a chance to draw a picture or make a card.
Her father, Robbie Parker, fought back tears as he described the beautiful, blonde, always-smiling girl who loved to try new things, except food.
Parker, one of the first parents to publicly talk about his loss, expressed no animosity for the gunman, even as he struggled to explain the death to his other two children, ages 3 and 4. He's sustained by the fact that the world is better for having had Emilie in it.
"I'm so blessed to be her dad," he said.
Ana Marquez-Greene, 6
A year ago, 6-year-old Ana Marquez-Greene was reveling in the holidays with her extended family on her first trip to Puerto Rico. This year will be heartbreakingly different.
The girl's grandmother, Elba Marquez, said the child's family moved to Connecticut just two months ago, drawn from Canada, in part, by Sandy Hook's pristine reputation. The grandmother's brother, Jorge Marquez, is mayor of a Puerto Rican town and said the child's 9-year-old brother was also at the school, but escaped safely.
Jorge Marquez confirmed the girl's father is saxophonist Jimmy Greene, who wrote on Facebook that he was trying to "work through this nightmare." "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," he wrote.
Dawn Hochsprung, 47
Dawn Hochsprung's pride in Sandy Hook Elementary was clear. She regularly tweeted photos from her time as principal there, giving indelible glimpses of life at a place now known for tragedy. Just this week, it was an image of fourth-graders rehearsing for their winter concert, days before that the tiny hands of kindergartners exchanging play money at their makeshift grocery store.
She viewed her school as a model, telling The Newtown Bee in 2010 that "I don't think you could find a more positive place to bring students to every day." She had worked to make Sandy Hook a place of safety, too, and in October, 47-year-old Hochsprung shared a picture of the school's evacuation drill with the message "Safety first." Officials said she died while lunging at the gunman in an attempt to overtake him.
Victoria Soto, 27
She beams in snapshots. Her enthusiasm and cheer was evident. She was doing, those who knew her say, what she loved. And now, Victoria Soto is being called a hero.
Though details of the 27-year-old teacher's death remained fuzzy, her name has been invoked again and again as a portrait of selflessness and humanity among unfathomable evil.
Investigators informed relatives that she was killed while shielding her first-graders from danger. She reportedly hid some students in a bathroom or closet, ensuring they were safe, a cousin, Jim Wiltsie, told ABC News.
"She was trying to shield, get her children into a closet and protect them from harm," Wiltsie told ABC. "And by doing that, put herself between the gunman and the children."
Mary Sherlach, 56
When the shots rang out, Mary Sherlach threw herself into the danger.
Janet Robinson, the superintendent of Newtown Public Schools, said Sherlach and the school's principal ran toward the shooter. They lost their own lives, rushing toward him.
Even as Sherlach neared retirement, her job at Sandy Hook was one she loved. Those who knew her called her a wonderful neighbor, a beautiful person, a dedicated educator. "Mary felt like she was doing God's work," her son-in-law, Eric Schwartz, said, "working with the children."
The Emilie Parker Fund Facebook page shows Emilie Parker and her father Robbie Parker. Fighting back tears he reserved surprising words of sympathy for the gunman. EMILIE PARKER FUND / AP
Dawn Hochsprung: Officials said she died while lunging at the gunman in an attempt to overtake him.