Parents across the nation were gutted by the news that a gunman entered an elementary school and deliberately gunned down nearly two dozen young children.
The images Friday out of Newtown, Conn.--a wailing mother, a line of frightened children escaping the school--will likely remain a part of the national consciousness in the years to come. The ages of the vast majority of victims, 6-7 years old, added an extra element of horror and incomprehension to the massacre in a year that had already seen 12 other mass shootings.
Shell-shocked residents of Newtown say the town is extraordinarily safe, with only one homicide in the last 10 years prior to Friday.
The investigation into what happened at Sandy Hooks Elementary School has been fluid, with information constantly changing. At this time, police believe the suspect, identified as 20-year-old Adam Lanza, killed his mother at her Newtown home, then drove to the school and killed 26 people. All but six were children.
Lanza then shot and killed himself, leaving the death total between the two scenes at 28. It was the second only to Virginia Tech as the deadliest school shooting in U.S. history.
A medical examiner released Saturday that all the victims were shot multiple times at close range, with three to 11 wounds apiece. Authorities released the identities of the victims Saturday ; the six adults were all women and the children were no older than 7 years old.
Three guns--two handguns and an assault rifle--were found inside the school. All were registered to the suspect's mother. A fourth gun was found in the car the suspect drove to the school.
Authorities are still trying to piece together the gunman's path, but according to CNN, law enforcement officials believe the shooter, clad in black battle fatigues and a military vest, targeted two classrooms of kindergartners and first-graders. The school's principal and psychologist are also believed to have been shot in the first few minutes. Town officials are saying that Principal Dawn Hochsprung died lunging at the suspect to overtake him, according to the Associated Press.
In a press conference Saturday, authorities said the suspect forced his way in. They wouldn't elaborate further. The school locks its doors at 9:30 a.m., and it's currently unclear if the gunman tried entering before or after the doors were locked.
After shots rang out, there are reports that custodian raced through the hallways of the school warning staff and students. At the same time, a teacher said someone flipped the switch on the intercom, possibly saving lives by allowing the chaos inside the office to be heard by the entire school.
The teenaged brother of a 9-year-old student at the school said his sister heard screams over the intercom.
Children said were told by their teachers to hide, and reported seeing officers enter their classrooms looking for the shooter. Officers soon returned to classrooms to guide students out, telling them to line up and cover their eyes until they were out of the school.
Kindergarten teacher Janet Vollmer told CNN that at the sound of gunshots, she locked her doors and covered her windows, then led the children to the back of the room. She opened a book and read to them until police came to escort them out.
Other students reported hiding in closets and piling into tiny bathrooms until they were guided to safety.
An 8-year-old told CBS News that he was in the hallway as bullets whizzed by, and that a teacher saved his life by pulling him into a classroom.
As the terrifying scene unfolded at the school, parents around town were locked in their own nightmare, as robo calls and texts messages began going out around 9:30 a.m. EST that there was an unconfirmed shooting and the school was on alert. Frantic mothers and fathers raced to the school to locate their children.
One father told CBS he was initially turned away and told to go to the fire station, where the evacuated children were. He said until the moment he and his 7-year-old son were reunited, he was terrified for the worst.
"What an amazing moment," he said of finding his son, "after going through the sheer terror to see my son alive."
After all surviving children were accounted for, the firehouse became a gathering area for the grieving families of the children presumed dead.
Connecticut State Police spokesman Lt. Paul Vance said that all victims were positively identified by early Saturday morning
"Our objective certainly was to positively identify the victims to try to give the families some closure," he explained. "Our detectives worked well through the night. By early this morning, we were able to positively identify all of the victims and make some formal notification to all of the families of the victims.
Vance said the investigation within the building and on the exterior continues Saturday.
When asked Saturday if there were any emails or other writings by Lanza that could shed light into motive, Vance responded that investigators had found "very good evidence" but refused to elaborate.
Early reports suggested that the suspect's mother, Nancy Lanza, worked at the school as a kindergarten teacher, but her name does not appear on any staff list. No connection between her and the school has been established at this time.
An aunt told CBS News that Lanza's parents would not have hesitated to get him mental help if he needed it, and that relatives who had seen Lanza recently had noticed nothing out of the ordinary about his behavior.
People who Lanza had conflicting memories, with many remembering him as a normal, happy boy; others recalling him as quiet and keeping to himself. A former classmate told WCBS out of New York City that Lanza wasn't a troublemaker or particularly anti-social--he "was just a kid."
One law enforcement official says a family member told investigators Lanza had a form of autism.
Those who knew the family described them as loving and nurturing, though Lanza's parents divorced in 2008.
Early on, authorities also incorrectly identified the shooter as Lanza's 24-year-old brother Ryan Lanza, who lives in New Jersey. On what is believed to be Ryan Lanza's Facebook page, status updates began popping up asserting his innocence. Updates included "It wasn't me" and "I'm at work."
The confusion may have been caused by Adam Lanza carrying his brother's identification on him, but that is only speculation at this time.
Ryan Lanza has told authorities he has not been in contact with his brother in more than two years. Though investigators are looking through his computer and phone records, he is currently not believed to have had any involvement.
President Obama spoke about the rampage in a brief press conference Friday afternoon. Visibly shaken and wiping away a tear, he delved only briefly into the gun control argument that is certain be looming over the coming weeks, referencing the mass shootings in Aurora and Tucson among others. But largely, he focused on the immediate tragedy.
"There is not a parent in the America that doesn't feel the same overwhelming grief," Obama, the father of two school-aged daughters, said.