'We can't go back to school our teacher is dead': The moment Sandy Hook
neighbor found six surviving first-graders sitting in a circle in his
driveway moments after they ran from school massacre
23:16 GMT, 17 December 2012
Gene Rosen had just finished feeding his cats and was heading from
his home near Sandy Hook Elementary school to a diner Friday morning
when he saw six small children sitting in a neat semicircle at the end
of his driveway.
A school bus driver was standing over them, telling them things would
be all right. It was about 9:30 a.m., and the children, he discovered,
had just run from the school to escape a gunman.
'We can't go back to school,' one little boy told Rosen. 'Our teacher is dead. Mrs. Soto; we don't have a teacher.'
Shelter: Gene Rosen took in four girls and two boys that were sitting at the end of his driveway after escaping Sandy Hook and telling him, 'We can't go back to school. Our teacher is dead'
Distraction: One little girl spent the entire ordeal clutching a small stuffed Dalmatian to her chest and staring out the window looking for her mommy
Rosen, a 69-year-old retired psychologist, took the four girls and
two boys into his home, and over the next few hours gave them toys,
listened to their stories and called their frantic parents.
Rosen said he had heard the staccato sound of gunfire about 15
minutes earlier but had dismissed it as an obnoxious hunter in the
'I had no idea what had happened,' Rosen said. 'I couldn't take that in.'
He walked the children past his small goldfish pond with its running
waterfall, and the garden he made with his two grandchildren, into the
small yellow house he shares with his wife.
He ran upstairs and grabbed an armful of stuffed animals.
those to the children, along with some fruit juice, and sat with them as
the two boys described seeing their teacher being shot.
Hidden: Rosen broke down recalling how the mother of one of the dead came to Rosen's house praying to find her child hidden there after all of the kids had been picked up by their families
Hero: Teacher Victoria Soto was killed when she selflessly shielded her students from gunman Adam Lanza's bullets with her own body
Victoria Soto, 27, was a first-grade teacher killed when 20-year-old
Adam Lanza burst into her classroom.
It wasn't clear how the children
escaped harm, but there have been reports that Soto hid some of her
students from the approaching gunman.
The six who turned up at Rosen's
home did apparently have to run past her body to safety.
'They said he had a big gun and a little gun,' said Rosen, who didn't want to discuss other details the children shared.
Rosen called the children's parents, using cellphone numbers obtained
from the school bus company, and they came and retrieved their
One little girl, he said, spent the entire ordeal clutching a small
stuffed Dalmatian to her chest and staring out the window looking for
And one little boy brought them all a moment of levity.
'This little boy turns around, and composes himself, and he looks at
me like he had just removed himself from the carnage and he says, `Just
saying, your house is very small,'' Rosen said. 'I wanted to tell him,
`I love you. I love you.''
Rosen said Sandy Hook had always been a place of joy for him.
taught his 8-year-old grandson to ride his bike in the school parking
lot and took his 4-year-old granddaughter to use the swings.
Overcome: Rosen gave those to the children, along with some fruit juice and sat with them as the two boys described seeing their teacher being shot
'I thought today how life has changed, how that ground has been marred, how that school has been desecrated,' he said.
He said it wasn't his training as a psychologist that helped him that day – it was being a grandparent.
A couple of hours after the last child left, a knock came on his
door. It was a frantic mother who had heard that some children had taken
refuge there. She was looking for her little boy.
'Her face looked frozen in terror,' Rosen said, breaking down in tears.
'She thought maybe a miracle from God would have the child at my
house,' he said. Later, 'I looked at the casualty list … and his name
was on it.'