Public tears as governor describes ending parents’ wait
He came close Sunday on CNN. It finally happened Monday afternoon at the State Capitol: Gov. Dannel P. Malloy publicly wept for the first time since the mass murders Friday of 26 students and staff at an elementary school in Newtown.
In a press conference, Malloy was asked how it fell to him Friday to inform waiting parents that their children were dead, victims of a 20-year-old man who invaded Sandy Hook Elementary, killing 20 students and six staff, including the principal, school psychologist and teachers.
The governor looked down and to his right, away from the reporter who posed the question.
“Um, um, yeah, I was …”
Malloy fell silent.
“It was evident to me that there was a reluctance, uh, to tell parents and loved ones that the person they were waiting for was not going to return,” Malloy said.
He fell silent again.
“Um, that had gone on for a period of time, well after there was any expectancy that, that families would be reunited,” Malloy said.
Malloy and Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman, who was with the governor at the press conference, had been at the firehouse down the hill from Sandy Hook Elementary, where parents waited Friday to be reunited with their children.
Standard procedure in such cases is to wait until a next of kin can be shown a photo to make a positive identification. That took time, too much time for the parents and, ultimately, for the governor.
One official who was present at the firehouse said parents grew frustrated at the wait, with one man yelling, “Will you please just tell us the truth!”
So, Malloy broke procedure. He knew that all the children who survived the attack were accounted for. If a child had not been brought to his mother or father, it was certain he or she was dead.
“I made the decision,” he said Monday, “that to have that gone on any longer, uh…”
“Was wrong,” Wyman said, finishing his sentence.
“Was wrong,” Malloy repeated. “I did it…”
“And very well,” Wyman said.
Malloy quickly wiped away tears.
On CNN, when he was asked about the scene in the firehouse, his voice briefly broke. He said, “That’s something you’re not prepared for.”
Malloy and Wyman each attended a child’s funeral Monday: Malloy at services for Noah Pozner, Wyman at those for Jack Pinto. Both boys were six years old. The governor said they will attend services for every victim, unless the family indicates a wish for privacy.
The governor urged the state legislature to look at new gun laws, including a possible limit on the sale and possession of high-capacity magazines, an idea that died in committee two years ago. Malloy said the gunman in Newtown, who shot some students as many as 11 times, used a rifle with a 30-round magazine.
House Majority Leader J. Brendan Sharkey, D-Hamden, who will take over as speaker in January, said he has asked a group of legislators to prepare legislation for the coming session in 2013.
“I think there is a recognition the public is expecting us to do somethg about the safety of the public and the safety of our kids,” Sharkey said.
The investigation continued Monday with 200 investigators working to determine how and why the gunman, Adam Lanza, who killed himself as police arrived, came to launch a ferocious assault on Sandy Hook Elementary School with a semi-automatic rifle and two handguns. Earlier, he killed his mother at their home.
Lt. J. Paul Vance of the Connecticut State Police said investigators found no evidence of a previous conflict between Lanza and authorities or the school.
He disclosed that the young survivors of the attack will be interviewed by investigators with the assistance of counselors and parents.
“It’s a very, very tender, tender issue,” Vance said.
He declined to walk the media through Lanza’s attack inside the school.
“It’s too difficult to discuss. I’m not going to lie. It’s too difficult to discuss,” Vance said. “I simply don’t want to, and it’s not appropriate.”
Malloy made a request Monday, one that he shared with every governor in the United States.
On Friday at 9:30 a.m., exactly one week after the killings, Malloy wants a moment of silence that he hopes is broken only by the tolling of church bells, once for each victim.
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