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A Newtown teacher's boyfriend remembers his love

By Ashley Fantz. Poppy Harlow and Laura Dolan, CNN
December 20, 2012 -- Updated 1440 GMT (2240 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Lauren Rousseau's lifelong dream was to become a teacher
  • She baked cupcakes, made funny cards, hesitated to honk at drivers because that seemed mean to her
  • Her boyfriend, Tony Lusardi, told CNN that he's glad he had one year with her
  • He longs for her, wakes up clutching a pillow that smells of her

(CNN) -- When Lauren Rousseau's boyfriend wakes up, he can smell her perfume.

Tony Lusardi opens his eyes and holds a tiny pillow that Rousseau, a Sandy Hook Elementary School teacher, used to lay her head on. And then he sobs.

He wants to touch her again. Laugh with her.

"I'm convinced that I'll see her again," he says.

Rousseau was teaching last Friday morning when a tall thin figure wearing black fatigues and a military vest burst into her classroom.

Ken Henggeler started this memorial to the victims of the shooting at the intersection of Main Street and Sugar Street in Newtown, Connecticut. Ken Henggeler started this memorial to the victims of the shooting at the intersection of Main Street and Sugar Street in Newtown, Connecticut.
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Adam Lanza, 20 years old, was armed with a Glock, a Sig Sauer and a rifle like the kind soldiers use in war.

Only 30, Rousseau had told her mother before she was even in kindergarten that she wanted to grow up to be a teacher.

Sandy Hook had hired her last month as a permanent substitute teacher.

That was extraordinary news. Rousseau had spent so many years working different jobs and taking substitute opportunities when she could, Teresa Rousseau told a local newspaper.

Lauren Rousseau, her mom said, was thrilled to finally be doing exactly what she always wanted.

Remembering the victims

A natural teacher

"I only got one year with her," Lusardi says. They celebrated a one-year anniversary on November 8.

He's been thinking a lot about time.

"It's kinda bad to say," he says, sobbing, "but I'm jealous of her friends that got more than one year with her. I only got one.

"But it was a really good year."

By every measure, Rousseau was a teacher of young children. She had that kind of special niceness about her.

"She didn't like to honk her horn at people that cut her off in traffic because she thought it would be mean," Lusardi says, smiling.

Rousseau gave him sweet cards that had silly jokes. One had bananas on it because she was bananas about him.

Teachers were heroes in the face of death

When she ran into anyone she knew she reached out and hugged them.

She and Lusardi were planning to see the new movie "The Hobbit" Friday night, then go to a party.

Rousseau had baked "Hobbit" cupcakes.

Lusardi's Friday could have been like so many others, filled with cute texts from his girlfriend, pictures from her class.

"She loved to tell me what she was doing that week," he says. "She'd send a text, Oh, we're doing this, we're doing that, and would send tons of pictures of what the kids had created that day."

It was just so easy to be with her.

Their first date, a wine bar. They shared a kiss.

He loved her from the start.

"The first date I had with her," he says. "I knew."

Where to donate

Early gifts

She called him "Lovie."

He called her "Busy Bee."

During his conversation with CNN, Lusardi looks at pictures taken two months ago at a wedding. Rousseau was trying to outdo herself by making the best funny face.

He thinks about the past year. It was only a year he had. It went by too fast.

They never fought, he says.

He wishes they would have been able to argue over what kind of rug to buy for the apartment he'd always imagined they'd share.

At his home now are the wrapped Christmas presents that she gave to him. It's the kind of thing an elementary school teacher would do -- give the gifts early, let the joyful anticipation build, bring out the kid in someone else.

Lusardi is broken by the thought of unwrapping them. So he hasn't. That would feel final, over.

"It doesn't seem real," he says. "It doesn't seem permanent and finite."

Lusardi met President Obama when he visited Newtown Sunday. Obama hugged him.

"I want a hug from Lauren, you know, and I'm not going to get that."

Lusardi went on her Facebook page and wrote, as if he were writing to her. "I got a hug from the President."

He would trade that experience in a second to embrace her again.

He's been listening to Ingrid Michaelson's "The Way I Am."

It reminds him of her.

If you were falling, then I would catch you

You need a light, I'd find a match

'Cause I love the way you say good morning

And you take me the way I am

If you are chilly, here take my sweater

Your head is aching, I'll make it better

'Cause I love the way you call me baby

And you take me the way I am

"I want the world to know that Lauren was a great person," he says. "She touched the lives of everyone she ever met.

"Even if you only met her once, you liked her."

Share your tributes

Poppy Harlow and Laura Dolan reported from Newtown. Ashley Fantz wrote this story in Atlanta.

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