Traumatized Newtown Police Tell of Darkest Day

Seven officers recount Sandy Hook Elementary massacre

By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff

Posted Jan 29, 2013 7:33 AM CST | Updated Jan 29, 2013 8:30 AM CST

(Newser) – It's been six weeks since the Newtown massacre, but for the police who were first on the scene, it may as well have been six minutes. The New York Times speaks to seven Newtown officers—some telling their stories for the first time—who describe horrifying and heart-wrenching details that just won't fade from memory:

  • On finding the first bodies, of the principal and school psychologist: "For a split second, your mind says could this be a mock crime scene, could this be fake, but in the next split second, you’re saying, there is no way. This is real."

  • On the one they couldn't save: One officer found a girl wounded, but with a pulse. He rushed her to an ambulance, telling her, "You’re safe now; your parents love you." She didn't make it.
  • On the one they did: In the classroom where police found most of the bodies, they also found a girl among them, bloodied, in shock, but unhurt. After seeing Adam Lanza dead in the next room, an officer grabbed her and ran her out of the building.
  • On teachers' heroics: In the aforementioned classroom, "the teacher had them huddled up like a mother hen—simple as that, in a corner." Others, fiercely protective of their kids, refused to open their doors. "We were ripping our badges off and putting them up to the window."
  • On the aftermath: Three detectives spent a week after the shooting bagging evidence, in tandem with state police. One spoke of Christmas ornaments that had been set on a windowsill to dry. "It's heartbreaking. These kids will never take those ornaments home to their parents."
  • What lingers: For as many as 15 officers, PTSD, says a lawyer for the union that represents them. One officer, now on medication to help him sleep, still hasn't returned to work. Others say even a TV show—or the sound of a child laughing—can produce tears.
Click for more from the interview.

In this photo provided by the Newtown Bee, a police officer leads two women and a child from Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
In this photo provided by the Newtown Bee, a police officer leads two women and a child from Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.   (AP Photo/Newtown Bee, Shannon Hicks)
In this photo provided by the Newtown Bee, police officers are on the scene outside Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
In this photo provided by the Newtown Bee, police officers are on the scene outside Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.   (AP Photo/Newtown Bee, Shannon Hicks)
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