Grief In The Oval Office: Picture Of Obama Informed About Sandy Hook Shootings Released
This photograph, released by the White House on Thursday, reveals the terrible moment when President Barack Obama was told the shocking news about the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
The President, who has described the day of the shootings as the ‘worst day of my presidency,’ is seen bowing his head and closing his eyes as John Brennan, his deputy national security adviser, informs him about the tragic events unfolding in Newtown, Connecticut.
In the wake of the tragedy, the president has tasked his deputy Joe Biden with leading a task force to look at proposals to tighten current firearms legislation.
In Newtown, the surviving children of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre returned to classes on Thursday for the first time since the killing, relocating to a refurbished school in a nearby town.
On a day laced with worry for the families, children were pictured boarding buses, while police officers stood guard outside the school to check IDs of parents dropping off their sons and daughters.
In one particularly striking image, a young boy aboard a yellow school bus held his fingers in a peace sign as the vehicle passed memorials and welcoming signs on its new route.
With their original school still being treated as a crime scene, the more than 400 students are now attending a school, formerly known as Chalk Hill School, in the neighboring town of Monroe.
The site has taken the name Sandy Hook Elementary School – known as the place where six staff members and 20 children lost their lives on December 14 – after discussions with staff.
Police officers have been guarding the new school and a senior officer described it as ‘the safest school in America’.
The school district said parents who wanted to be close to their children could stay in classrooms or an auditorium throughout the first day, but they were encouraged to take their children to the bus to help them return to their routine.
Newtown Superintendent of Schools Janet Robinson said the school has been transformed into a ‘cheerful’ place for the students to resume normal school routines.
She said mental health counselors are available for anyone who needs them.
‘We will go to our regular schedule,’ she said. ‘We will be doing a normal day.’
Teams of workers, many of them volunteers, prepared the school with fresh paint and new furniture and even raised bathroom floors so the smaller elementary school students can reach the toilets.
The students’ desks, backpacks and other belongings that were left behind following the shooting were taken to the new school to make them feel at home.
Several signs welcoming the students to their new school were posted along the road leading to the school in a rural, mostly residential neighborhood. One said ‘Welcome Sandy Hook Elementary Kids,’ while a similar sign added ‘You are in our prayers.’
On Wednesday, the students and their families were welcomed at an open house at their new school, and students received gift boxes with toys inside and shared joyful reunions with teachers.
One father, Vinny Alvarez, thanked his third-grade daughter’s teacher, Courtney Martin, who protected the class by locking her classroom door and keeping the children in a corner.
‘Everybody there thanked her in their own way,’ he said.
Of his eight-year-old daughter, Cynthia, he added: ‘I’m not worried about her going back. The fear kind of kicks back in a little bit, but we’re very excited for her and we got to see many, many kids today. The atmosphere was very cheerful.’
On Wednesday, numerous police officers on guarded the outside of the Monroe school, which is about seven miles from the old school, and told reporters to stay away.
‘I think right now it has to be the safest school in America,’ Monroe police Lt. Keith White said.
Acting Sandy Hook principal Donna Page wrote on the school’s website: ‘Be assured that the towns of Monroe and Newtown are working night and day to ensure the facility is safe, secure and fully operational for our return.’
She took on the role after the elementary school’s principal Dawn Hochsprung was killed in the attack and parents are now calling Ms Page the ‘new old principal’ as she led the school for 14 years before retiring in 2010.
There had been concern about who would lead the school, parent Karen Dryer told ABC News.
‘We got a voicemail from Donna reintroducing herself and saying that when she heard [about the shooting] she knew it was the calling that she needed to come out of retirement and take the position of head of school,’ Dryer said.
‘I started crying when I heard the message. It’s still emotional. It was such a blessing and such an amazing relief because it was like, “Oh my, now we can breathe. They’re going to be okay”.’
Robinson announced on Wednesday that the former Chalk Hill Middle School in Monroe had been renamed after a decision was taken by staff from the previous Sandy Hook school.
‘That’s who they are,’ she said. ‘They’re the Sandy Hook family.’
Robinson added that renaming the Chalk Hill school will allow staff and students to keep ‘their identity and a comfort level’.
The school where the shootings occurred remains closed and guarded by police. Newtown officials haven’t decided yet on the building’s future.
Teachers are returning as well, and some have already been working on their classrooms. At some point, all those will be honored, but officials are still working out how and when to do so, Robinson said.
‘Everyone was part and parcel of getting as many kids out of there safely as they could,’ she said.
‘Almost everybody did something to save kids. One art teacher locked her kids in the kiln room, and I got a message from her on my cellphone saying she wouldn’t come out until she saw a police badge.’
(Missed: Child victims of the shootings: Top row: (L-R) Ana Marquez-Greene, Caroline Previdi, Jessica Rekos, Emilie Parker, Noah Pozner. Second row: (L-R) Jesse Lewis, Olivia Engel, Josephine Gay, Charlotte Bacon, Chase Kowalski. Third row: (L-R) Daniel Barden, Jack Pinto, Catherine Hubbard, Dylan Hockley, Benjamin Wheeler. Fourth row: (L-R) Grace McDonnell, James Mattioli, Avielle Richman, Madeleine Hsu, Allison Wyatt)