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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Continued Coverage of the Connecticut School Shooting; Member of the Community Speak about the Shooting
Aired December 15, 2012 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening, everyone. I'm Anderson Cooper in Newtown, Connecticut, this evening, a town that's heavy with grief and loss and a profound, profound silent sadness.
A short time ago, state police here put names to the numbers. They identified by name the 20 children and six adult women shot dead yesterday in their school. The kids, all of them, were either 6 years old or 7 years old. Most of them were girls. You're about to hear the words of one young victim's father, a man who wanted to speak, a man who wants you to know about his little girl who was lost.
You're going to hear true accounts of really remarkable bravery, shown by people, teachers inside that school yesterday. There's a lot we want to tell you about in this hour.
We also just found out that President Obama will be visiting here tomorrow to show his support for the families, to meet with the first responders and to mourn loss with all of them and with the nation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER (voice-over): A little while ago in Stratford, Connecticut, about 20 miles from here, family and friends of one of the teachers killed yesterday, Victoria Soto, gathered to remember her and share their sadness.
Vicki Soto was a first grade teacher, just 27 years old, one of the six adults shot yesterday inside the school.
And back here in Newtown, I want you to hear some voices from this community, this community tonight of people who are anguished, family members and the professionals who had to overcome their shock and their grief to do their jobs.
DR. H. WAYNE CARVER II, CONN. CME: All the ones that I know of at this point were (inaudible) by the one weapon.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) primary weapon?
I only did seven of the autopsies, the victims I had ranged from 3 to 11 wounds a piece. And I only saw two of them with post-range shooting.
JILL GARRETT, AUNT OF EMILIE PARKER: Emilie Alice Parker was the sweetest little girl I've ever known. My children are grieving, my siblings across the country are grieving, and we're just devastated that someone so beautiful and perfect is no longer going to be in our lives and for no reason. And we can only pray that we find understanding in the days and weeks to come.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: A lot of people are searching for understanding tonight. And I just want to point this out once. You all know the name of the shooter by now, and we want you to know the names of the victims. So we're really going to be focusing on them as much as we can tonight, and, of course, in the days ahead on this program.
I'm not going to keep repeating the name of the shooter because you already know it. I don't want that name to go down in history and I think a lot of people here in this town do not want the name of the person, the killer, to be known in households and to go down in history. They want the names of the victims to be remembered. And we will remember them tonight.
Susan Candiotti is joining me right now with the latest on the investigation.
You have been here in Newtown since yesterday, just hours after the shooting happened, Susan. What are you hearing from people today?
SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we're hearing that everyone wants to find out why, why this happened, what led this young man to do this. And we know that authorities are tracing him way back, as far as they can go, but primarily concentrating on the time he was a teenager up until now, when he's 20 years old.
And, in fact, CNN obtained a photograph, this one taken of him, one taken in 2005 when he would have been about 13 years old.
We also know that authorities have been spending the entire day chasing down leads, also looking at anything he would have written down, letters, emails, correspondence. And they even went to various gun ranges as well as a sporting goods store because they got a tip, a tip that the shooter had gone there to purchase a gun on Tuesday.
Well, they talked to the employees, they looked hard at all the surveillance videos from that day and they say they have not been able to pull anything out of that. That lead just did not pan out.
But we also learned from the ATF, Anderson, that they found three more weapons -- or more weapons at the house that the young man shared with his mother. Now, they didn't say what those weapons were, but my sources tell me that they are three older model rifles. And so --- and they've been tracing, so far have traced only one of them to his mother. Anderson?
COOPER: And what do we know now about the three weapons that were taken into the school?
CANDIOTTI: Well, those three we now know according to our sources that all three of them were found right there with the shooter. Those were two handguns and a long gun called -- that we now know called a Bushmaster. And you heard the medical examiner refer to that long gun specifically today.
He said that the shooter used that long gun to kill several of his victims, some with anywhere from three to 11 wounds each, Anderson, just a vicious, cold blooded killing. Anderson?
COOPER: Susan Candiotti, appreciate your reporting tonight. We're obviously being very respectful and not approaching anybody who is in mourning or in loss. And we certainly don't want to intrude on anybody's grief, but some families are speaking. And they do want you to know about their child, their child who is lost.
We just heard from the father of one little girl who was killed yesterday.
And he said, "I don't know how to get through something like this."
But the man who said those words will have to find a way, of course. And so will so many other families here.
His daughter, 6-year-old Emilie Parker was one of the children killed, and carrying the unbearable pain, Robbie Parker went before cameras tonight to tell the world about that pain and about his daughter and show his love and his admiration for the little girl that he described as extraordinary. Listen.
ROBBIE PARKER, FATHER OF EMILIE PARKER: My name is Robbie Parker. My family is one of the families that lost a child yesterday in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings here in Connecticut. I've been contacted by so many people and agencies wanting to know how we're doing, and I just thought that this might be the best way to share those feelings with everybody.
First of all, I would really like to offer our deepest condolences to all the families who are directly affected by this shooting. It's a horrific tragedy and we want everybody to know that our hearts and prayers go out to them.
This includes the family of the shooter. I can't imagine how hard this experience must be for you. And I want you to know that our family and our love and our support goes out to you as well.
At this time, our thanks go out to so many people, so many friends and family and complete strangers who we don't know, for all the love, condolences and support that you've given us.
My daughter, Emilie, would be one of the first ones to be standing and giving her love and support to all those victims, because that's the type of person that she is, not because of any parenting that my wife and I could have done, but because those were the gifts that were given to her by her Heavenly Father. As the deep pain begins to settle into our hearts, we find comfort, reflecting on the incredible person that Emilie was and how many lives that she was able to touch in her short time here on Earth. Emilie was bright, creative and very loving. Emilie was always willing to try new things, other than food.
She loved to use her talents to touch the lives of everyone that she came into contact with. She was an exceptional artist and she always carried around her markers and pencils so that she never missed an opportunity to draw a picture or make a card for those around her.
I can't count the number of times Emilie noticed someone feeling sad or frustrated and would rush to find a piece of paper to draw them a picture or to write them an encouraging note. Emilie's card making was expressed beautifully this last October, when she placed a very special card that she had made into the casket with her grandpa, who also just recently died of a tragic accident.
Emilie was a mentor to her two little sisters, and delighting in teaching them how to read, dance and find the simple joys in life. Emilie's laughter was infectious and all those who had the pleasure to meet her would agree that this world is a better place because she has been in it.
As we move on from what happened here, what happened to so many people, let it not turn into something that defines us, but something that inspires us to be better, to be more compassionate and more humble people.
Let us please keep the sentiments of love that we feel for our families and the compassion that we feel for others, even complete strangers, and keep them with us at all times, not just in times of sorrow and tragedy. And may we do this so that we can better all of our communities and all of our cities and all our states so that we can make everyone everywhere in this country feel safe. Thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Robbie Parker speaking earlier this evening about his daughter, Emilie. And that's a picture of the Parkers in happier times. That's Emilie in the bottom right corner, and two other daughters who have survived and Robbie Parker, as you heard, talk about Emilie being a mentor to them, even at the tender age of 6 years old.
It is -- in the coming days, no doubt, we're going to be hearing more from parents who want you to know about their children. We're going to be learning more about the children, and it just adds to the horror of this event that, -- the loss this entire community feels.
Kyung Lah was there when Robbie Parker faced the cameras.
Kyung, I can't -- I mean, I -- the strength for him to come out and speak, and at a time of such grief to talk about compassion for others I just thought was extraordinary. KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's incredible. And to stand just four to five feet away from this father who has just lost his 6-year- old child to gun violence and then hear him talk about compassion and not letting this event define all of us, and his advice to other people, the need to heal, that this has got to be something that improves society overall and not just focusing on his own personal grief. It is an extraordinary moment.
If you think about all the people you know in your life, especially if you're a parent and have children, to imagine losing your child and then be able to face reporters to say thank you for the kindness that you've received in this country, just as people have found out about it, for postings on Facebook, it's really quite extraordinary.
And when I was speaking further from him, he said look, I'm not angry. He has to feel that he has to be able to move on by showing compassion to others so others can learn from what he has been going through as something that is not just with him, Anderson, but it's also with his sister-in-law.
Here's what she told reporters just before her brother-in-law spoke.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GARRETT: Our family is from Utah. I got a call yesterday morning from my sister, saying there had been a shooting and there was a lockdown at the school. I was giving her words of comfort as she was frantically attempting to find out what was going on and what had happened.
And all I could do was assure her that in every other instance when a shooting happens, it's not the 5-, 6- and 7-year olds who are going to be targeted. They're too innocent and perfect. And as I tried to reassure her throughout the day, as I hopped into an airplane, as I left, I didn't know the status of my niece until we arrived in Atlanta.
LAH: And that's in large part why the family wanted to come out and speak to reporters.
Something else I'd like to mention, Anderson, is that the father, Robbie, is a physician's assistant treating children at the local hospital. They moved here eight months ago for that job. His life is dedicated to saving children's lives. And for the family to lose their child like this is really just unfair, it's hard to imagine.
COOPER: Kyung Lah, appreciate it, Kyung. Thank you very much. I'm glad you were there and that we were able to hear from Robbie about his daughter.
You know, the word hero gets thrown around a lot in our society. But yesterday, we saw some truly heroic efforts by teachers, by school administrators, by first responders.
When the bullets started flying, so many teachers did what they had practiced. They ushered the kids to safety. Some even pulled students from the hallway as the gunman approached. And the amazing part is how teachers were able to keep the children calm.
I talked to one teacher last night, who was actually reading stories to the kids, not wanting the kids to know that there was anything wrong going on. Listen to some of what they had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARYANN JACOB, LIBRARY CLERK: Everyone has a spot in the room where they were supposed to go to. And --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can you describe that spot for us?
JACOB: Well, in the library, it's between some bookcases against a wall, where you can't be seen from any windows. We had to move out of that spot because one of our doors wasn't locked, we discovered. So we went into a back storage room and locked the kids in there.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How close were you together?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How did you keep the children quiet?
JACOB: We were like this close together.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Inaudible) --
JACOB: There was crayons and paper in the storage room in the back. And we tore some up and gave them (inaudible) and had them color and...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What did you tell them?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Inaudible) alone?
JACOB: There was three other adults with me. We -- they were asking, what's going on? We said we don't know. Our job is to stay quiet. It may be a drill, it may not. But we're just going to stay here and --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Inaudible) know at that point?
JACOB: We knew, because I called the office and she told me there was a shooter.
There was pounding on the door. And they said it was the police. But we didn't want to open the door, so they -- he first slid a badge under the door, but we had file cabinets in front of it so we had to move those. JANET VOLLMER, TEACHER: About 9:30, 9:40, we heard noises. And the announcement system was still on. So it didn't go off, so you could hear what sounded like pops and gunshots. Of course, I'm not going to tell that to 5-year-olds. So I said to them, ah, we're going over in a safe area. And we're going to, you know, we read a story and we kept them calm.
DENISE CORREIA, PARENT OF STUDENT: Her teacher managed to take two children out of the hallway, pull them into the classroom, lock the door and moved everybody over to the other side of the room.
RICK PHELPS, PARENT OF TWO STUDENTS: When I saw those teachers and I locked eyes with each of them separately, when I found those -- the two children, if I could go back, I would embrace them because I had no idea what they had gone through.
COOPER: One of the first victims to be publicly identified was Victoria Soto, 27 years old, a first grade teacher. She was killed in her classroom and is being mourned tonight, hailed also as a hero.
I'm joined now by Kate Bolduan and Jason Carroll.
Jason, how is Stratford remembering this young woman tonight? There was a vigil earlier.
JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And, Anderson, that vigil just wrapping up just a few moments ago, everyone coming out here tonight, leaning on each other for support. A lot of those who are coming out here tonight wore green. Green was one of Soto's favorite colors.
In terms of how they're remembering her, they're remembering her as a dedicated teacher. This is a young woman who actually, Anderson, wanted to be a teacher ever since she herself was a little girl.
And when they came out here tonight, they sang "Amazing Grace." They lit candles. I also earlier today, Anderson, had an opportunity to speak to one of the members of the Soto family. And they talked a little bit more about how they want Vicki Soto to be remembered. And they also talked about the heroic actions she took in her classroom to save her students.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAMES WILTSIE, COUSIN OF VICTORIA SOTO: The family didn't want Vicki just to be another victim on a piece of paper. Vicki was an outstanding teacher, well liked, well respected in her school community. And she was taken too early. She instinctively went into action when a monster came into her classroom and tried to protect the kids that she loved so much.
CARROLL: And can you tell me a little bit more about how she tried to do that?
What we were told was she gathered her children into a closet and put herself in harm's way, in between the gunman and the kids. And we just want the public to know that Vicki was a hero. You know, regardless of the intimate details that took place in that classroom, Vicki was doing what she was -- what she knew was right in her heart and what she was trained to do: to protect her kids.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CARROLL: So many tears here tonight, Anderson. Also here tonight was Vicki's family. Her younger sister Kaley (ph), her other sister, Julianne (ph), her younger brother. Kaley (ph) at one point addressed the crowd, addressed all the mourners who came out here. And she said something that she had tweeted a little earlier. I'm just going to read it to you very briefly.
She said, "Hug your loved ones. Tell them how much you love them because you never know when you'll see them again."
And once again, the reason why the family said they decided to hold this vigil tonight, why they decided to release some of the pictures that you saw there earlier of Vicki Soto is because they do not want her to be remembered as just a victim, Anderson.
They want her to be remembered as a woman who was a dedicated teacher, a woman who was a loving daughter, and someone who cared for her students, so much so, Anderson, that she didn't even refer to them as students, she referred to them as her children. Anderson?
COOPER: I think so many parents want people to know about their child, about their sibling, if it's a teacher or a school administrator and really want to honor the life that they lived. And I think here that's an important point about not just being referred to as a victim, but as a person, as a spirit who lived a remarkable life.
And I mean, in the case of Victoria Soto, what she did, you know, sacrificing her life essentially to protect her students, it's just extraordinary.
Kate Bolduan is also joining us.
You spoke with the parents of a young boy who was in Victoria Soto's class. We've heard from a lot of parents who are just so thankful for all the teachers. I imagine they were as well.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Absolutely. This is Brian (ph), Robert (ph) and Diane Licata. Their son, 6 years old, was in Victoria Soto's class and they say that it's in part her quick thinking that is part of the reason why their son, their (inaudible) son was able to make it out of that classroom alive, Anderson.
Also part of his own quick thinking, as somehow he was able, along with several other students to run directly past the gunman as he was in their classroom and run out of the school to safety. And a very emotional interview that I did with these parents today, they also conveyed that hair son, following this horrific day, they said their son very much loved their -- his teacher.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DIANE LICATA, MOTHER OF STUDENT: He's reassuring himself that she's going to be OK. He really, really, really cared about his teacher. He was very close with her and she really loved (inaudible). And he keeps saying I really hope she's OK, I hope it's not her.
He knows that she's been hurt, but he doesn't know the end result. He knows the kids that he saw getting shot. He doesn't know the outcome. So I think he's reassuring himself, in his 6-year-old mind. I know he's processing it, but I think he's reassuring himself. I think he's telling himself that it's going to be OK.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: Anderson, the Licatas did not want their son to be interviewed. But I can tell you, I did spend some time not only with the two of them, but also with Aidan (ph), their 6-year-old son and his sister. And they really did seem in high spirits.
However, it's clear that he -- their son is very shaken. They had to put a sign on their doorbell to ask that people not ring the doorbell because every time it rings, Aidan thinks it's the bad guy coming to get him.
Now, as hard as this was -- this day has been for their family, they also said to me that their hearts break for the so many other families that cannot go home to hug their children tonight and they wanted to make sure that that message was conveyed, especially -- including to the family of Victoria Soto, Anderson.
COOPER: Yes. Kate, appreciate your reporting as well; Jason Carroll as well.
We've been learning new information throughout the day about what happened yesterday and the chain of events. There's still a lot we don't know, to be honest. But we're trying to piece together the pieces as best we can. We'll give you an update when we come back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, the first shots rang out at the Sandy Hook School just as the morning announcements were being read over the loudspeaker, as people could actually hear sort of the sounds of shooting over the loudspeaker.
CNN's Tom Foreman is in Washington with the latest information on what we have about how the day unfolded inside that school. Tom?
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, police are essentially constructing a map of all of the places that might have had connections to this shooter, for example, his brother's apartment down here in New Jersey, across New York up into Connecticut, his mother's house where she was found dead. And only about three miles away, of course, the school, to try to figure out what led him to this spot at that time, because they do believe that shortly after murdering his mother, he did drive the few miles from her house to this school and emerge in this parking lot with weapons very much like these to go into the school.
Now, let's look at the timeline of what happened, because that's really what they're trying to reconstruct.
About 9:30 in the morning that's when we believe, based on eyewitness accounts and police radio, that he probably left his car -- we think this is the one over here, based on the investigation -- and came up to the front of the school. That's also when he encountered his first obstacle, because this is where the security doors were installed to keep people out.
Police later said the glass had been broken out of these. That's apparently how he got into the school with those weapons. What we know for sure is, based on police reports, by 9:36 we have our first calls into the police station saying that shooting was occurring inside the school. And of course, everybody who was in the school was alerted to the sound of the gunfire.
If they didn't hear it directly, they heard it over the P.A. system in the school. Announcements were being made at that time, even though all the shooting took place in a relatively small area up here.
And this is also significant. By 9:38, 2 to 21/2 minutes later, police were saying if not all of the shooting, the bulk of the shooting was over, a very short period of time in a very small area where it all seemed to occur.
What happened after that? Well, it progressed even further. By about 9:40 in the morning, police were calling for emergency medical technicians to come there, for ambulances to come. A very few minutes later, they called for a whole lot more ambulances to come.
And by 9:50 or so in the morning, they were essentially saying that the scene was secure, that they had a suspect who was down; they had cleared the building, that many children were being led out. As you can see this photograph from the "Newton Bee," and that the situation was more or less secure.
There was still an awful lot of work to be done, obviously, but as you can see, as we look at this timeline, closer and closer, it really is coming down to a very short period of time, 20 minutes or less from the beginning to the end of this in terms of people really knowing what was happening.
And now, this huge, long, long search to understand why it happened. Anderson?
COOPER: Tom, appreciate that. The latest information that we have and I said, we're trying to collect pieces of information as we get them and bring them to you. I want to show you a live picture right now in Main Street in Newtown, a candlelight vigil, one of several that we have seen both today and last night, people gathering, people just want to kind of be together. And sometimes just be together in silence, sometimes talk, sometimes just hug and cry.
We've seen all of that in the streets of Newtown. And no doubt we'll be seeing that for many days to come. We are getting new information tonight about the first person that was killed in Newtown, the shooter's mother, Nancy.
She, as I said, is the shooter's mother; CNN's David Ariosto is here. He's been talking with Nancy Lanza's neighbors.
What are they saying about her?
DAVID ARIOSTO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, It's become really sort of a mixed bag or a mixed portrait of who this woman was.
The individuals that I've spoken to in some of the neighborhoods in this area paint a picture of this woman who attended these sort of weekly or monthly dice games, in which she would gather with residents in this community, of which they describe as a really tight-knit group, and would play these dice games, would garden, would talk about landscaping.
The joke was that the house behind me where all this incident took place is set back, and she would talk about doing the landscaping in the back and, you know, the landscape is really nothing that people could see.
So it paints this picture of this woman who attended these sort of parlor-like games and yet at the same time had this collection of guns, some of which were very high-powered guns, like the Bushmaster -- that's similar to the AR-15 that soldiers often in Iraq and Afghanistan, it's similar to that type of weapon.
So it doesn't quite jive with the scene that the neighbors paint of who this woman was during her day-to-day interactions with them. Someone who kept to herself, she moved into the area about 1998. Divorced with her husband years later. And her two boys grew up here.
What transpired next, it's -- and what really led to this incident has only raised more questions. And that's sort of the thing that we find being here. The more questions we get answered, the more we have. And what brought this tragedy on this town is really not something that really can be answered, it seems.
COOPER: Yes. David, a lot of people have a lot of questions in this community and elsewhere. David, we appreciate that reporting.
Sandy Hook Elementary had recently installed a new security system. You probably know that. We talked about that last night, which including locking all the doors at 9:30 am every day once school began. It's around the time that police say the gunman was able to force his way into the building, but they haven't said exactly how they got in.
I want to talk about security with Lou Palumbo. He's a former Nassau County, New York, police officer and director of the Elite Intelligence and Protection.
Is there any security system that, I mean, protects schools in this way?
LOU PALUMBO, SECURITY CONSULTANT: Well, there isn't one that's designed to, Anderson. What you can do is implement some changes, fortify the doors, upgrade the locks. One thing I think that every school should consider, even before this incident, was making these classrooms safe rooms in a sense.
By fortifying the classroom doors, keeping them locked at all times including when the children were in session and, again, upgrading a lock system. You know, you could create a somewhat safer environment for them in an instance like this. But you know, if we're talking about turning our classrooms into somewhat fortified --
COOPER: That's what it sounds like. I mean, it sounds --
PALUMBO: Well, that's a knee-jerk reaction. We're listening to people tell us that maybe we should put retired armed police officers at all our schools. That's just not feasible. I don't think it's an emotionally healthy environment for children to learn in either.
COOPER: It's interesting, you know. A lot of schools were designed to kind of be open places, open for teachers, open for students. And now they're starting to have to try to rethink that, to not have the architecture of the school be quite so open.
PALUMBO: Yes. Unfortunately, we're regressing, I mean, is what this comes down to. These are institutions where we learn, where we absorb knowledge, where we're supposed to be safe in doing that or experiencing that process.
And what we're looking at is just the deterioration of the culture. You and I were on television not five days ago, I believe, with a shooting in Oregon, similar circumstances. Somebody obtained a deadly weapon, a different format of this gun -- this gun is an M-4 carbine. That was an AR-15 -- illegally, through theft.
You know, we have issues here about failing to safeguard these weapons.
COOPER: The police say a woman who was wounded at the school was going to be instrumental to the investigation. At this point, what are police doing?
PALUMBO: They're continuing this investigation. You know, they're gathering evidence. They're trying to determine conclusively if he acted alone. They have to do that. They're preparing for possibly any future court cases.
They're doing a lot of different things. They're trying to find out exactly what transpired in that classroom. Did he leave us any messages, verbally, written, computer, so on and so forth? They're trying to vet this entire incident to find out what may have precipitated it as well as what transpired in the classroom.
COOPER: I also just keep thinking, I mean, beyond the parents, I keep thinking about the first responders and the police who have to -- I mean, this is a crime scene. And, you know, I shudder to think of what that crime scene looks like. But they have to catalog it. They have to document it.
PALUMBO: Yes. I mean, you have to realize, emotionally, the toll this takes on law enforcement agencies. As a rule, we deal with the underbelly of our society and part of our exercise is to insulate the general public from how dark this gets.
These men or women went into that room looking at these children that were basically slaughtered, according to the coroner's reports, shot multiple times. These are babies, our babies.
COOPER: Yes. Louisiana, I appreciate you being with us.
PALUMBO: My pleasure.
COOPER: I'm sorry it's under these circumstances.
We have a lot ahead. Again, we're trying to piece together as much information as we can, get it to you when we have it. We're going to take a short break. Our coverage continues in just a moment.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a very, very tragic, tragic scene for everybody. Certainly our hearts are broken for the families here.
VOLLMER: Well, you know, about 9:30, 9:40, we heard noises and the announcement system was still on. So it didn't go off, so you could hear what sounded like pops and gunshots.
CORREIA: Her teacher managed to take two children out of the hallway, pull them into the classroom, lock the door and moved everybody over to the other side of the room.
FATHER GEORGE WEISS, STOSSEL: . ROSE OF LIMA PARISH: We just told a little boy about his sister now. Just to see his heart, you know, like who am I going to play with, he said? I have nobody to play with now. So...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When your first grader goes to bed and says, "Mommy, anyone from my class last year, are they all OK? Are they all OK?"
And you look at them and say "I'm not really sure." GOV. DAN MALLOY (D), CONN.: You can never be prepared for this kind of incident. What has happened, what has transpired at that school building, will leave a mark on this community and every family impacted.
COOPER: People deal with grief in so many different ways. Some in silence, others want to talk, talk to the media, talk to friends and loved ones, talk to even strangers on streets. And we're seeing a lot of that here in Newtown. There's a lot of people kind of gathered, even out tonight, even though it's very cold.
I'm here with Dr. Sanjay Gupta.
You were actually at one of the places, a kind of a gathering point for people who want to talk to counselors. And what was that like?
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, I didn't know what to expect, because, you know, it was so raw still. I wasn't sure if people were actually going to go to this center.
When we got there, there was literally 100 cars in the parking lot. And out of respect for people's privacy, we weren't filming anything.
But people were walking out with children, probably children from the school. A lot of parents walking with them into the school and there were psychiatrists, psychologists, children's counselors in the school.
And what I think -- what was really striking is that people were going in, they were staying in for a long time. I mean, this was a, I'm sure, grieving, but also healing going on. And also this whole idea that the community was sort of an individual. Meaning that, you know, you saw that someone else was going through the same thing you were. And people were being comforted by that in some ways.
COOPER: It's interesting, I was talking to my mom who lost a son, my brother. And she was saying, for her, it helped to talk about it. And I've heard that from a lot of people here, that it helps to talk. And yet other people kind of aren't ready to talk about it or can't talk about it.
GUPTA: Yes. Yes. I think the timing seems to be different for different people, which was why I didn't know what to expect when I went to that crisis center today. But I -- it seems like this community, for the most part, is ready to talk. I mean, this is obviously a small sample size, but people are talking about it.
And the feeling of isolation, thinking that I'm going through this alone, that no one quite understands what this has done to me, can be quite painful and quite damaging long term as well. So if you see other people going through it, and even just being there in the crisis center with other people, I think, is assumed to be somewhat therapeutic.
COOPER: And certainly, a lot of parents here and also around the world, frankly, are trying to figure out how to talk to their kids about it. And I talked to parents last night whose kids were in the school and thankfully had survived, they were saying they were kind of waiting for their child to kind of bring it up to them. And that's the -- that's one way to do it.
GUPTA: You have to assume that they know. Obviously the children in the school know. But even other children in the community know, even if they hadn't been watching television, just in today's day and age.
The thing that keeps coming back, I think, is that they sort of direct the conversation. So you sort of get your own feelings in check first as an adult or as a parent, and then you fill in details as appropriate, as age appropriate, leaving out, you know, obviously graphic details.
But you know, this whole idea that you don't want to be false or you want to be very transparent in terms of what you tell them.
I had this conversation with my daughter when she asked. She -- the first thing she asked me, she started asking me about some of the names of the children. I think it's just interesting. They immediately want to humanize this in some way for themselves.
It was a tough conversation to have. I mean, you know, she wanted to know if her school was going to be safe. And I had to say look, you know, Daddy's school never had this happen to them. Mommy's school never had it happen to her. But this obviously happened. So we do the best we can to keep you safe. And you know, it's tough, but important conversations.
COOPER: The other question, I think, a lot of people had is yesterday, there were reports the shooter's brother had said that he had a personality disorder. Maybe he was somewhere on the autism spectrum.
Those are two separate things. And I had never heard of autism having anything to do with a preplanned act of violence. And I think a lot of people who have children who are autistic are upset that the word autism is even being mentioned in relation to this. Can you clarify it any?
GUPTA: Yes, I mean, it's exactly what you said. And I'm glad you said it because, you know, I looked this up again today. I talked to some of my experts that I talk to in this sort of thing. And I -- there is no evidence at all, there's no evidence to suggest that someone who is on the autism spectrum is -- it could be preplanned violence.
And people have violent outbursts sometimes, reactive violence. But preplanned violence just isn't something that's associated with this. And I've tried to make that very clear all day. But I heard that same thing. There's just no evidence of that whatsoever.
Also this whole notion, you know, autism or Asperger, whatever, you know, people have referred to it as different things with regard to him. That is something that's a neurodevelopmental disorder. It's not a personality disorder. It is not a mental illness. It is a neurodevelopmental disorder.
So I think -- I think terms here, as you always say, are important.
COOPER: They are, yes.
GUPTA: And with this, especially so.
COOPER: Yes. Well, I hope that clarifies it. And that's something that we will try to repeat as much as we can because we certainly don't want to give anyone the false impression about kids with autism.
GUPTA: That's right.
COOPER: And again, there's still so much we don't know about the mental state of this gunman.
Sanjay, appreciate it. We're going to have more with Sanjay in the 10:00 hour, another edition of 360. There's still a lot of information that we are trying to go through. We're also getting some new information.
Actually, I do want to bring -- just ask you briefly about -- there's some information on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, that she fell, possibly had a concussion. What are you hearing?
GUPTA: We heard that earlier in the week, she had been dealing with a stomach virus, became dehydrated to the point where she probably lowered her blood pressure and as a result, fainted. When she fainted she hit her head. Just today now, they say that she likely had had a concussion. So it took a few days for them to actually clarify that and make that diagnosis.
So the doctors have recommended that she -- it's OK for her to be at home, which is very important. I think they have a low threshold for her being in the hospital, but they're obviously comfortable with her being at home, but also saying no strenuous activity and really no work.
Because with a concussion, you want to make sure that the brain is sort of resting. So that means literally they say don't watch television, don't read a newspaper, let the brain sort of rest. I'm not sure that she's someone capable of doing that, frankly, but that's what they're recommending.
COOPER: Well, we certainly wish her the best.
Sanjay, I appreciate that.
We'll have more with Sanjay at the 10 o'clock hour on 360. Let's take another quick break. More from Newtown ahead.
(MUSIC PLAYING) COOPER: Well, the mass killings here in Newtown, Connecticut, have prompted some to want to turn schools into fortresses. We were talking about that with security expert Lou Palumbo a short time ago.
Even though the idea may sound desirable, it's not really possible. The debate is certainly on; the question is how can we all protect our children, not only at home in communities but at school? What do we give up to gain a measure of security, knowing that no strategy can absolutely guarantee our kids will be safe at school?
Here's Brian Todd with a look at that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A nightmare scenario for any school security official. But Michael Blow has some ideas on how to avoid mass casualties if a gunman is inside your school.
TODD: How do you respond if there are kids all around?
MICHAEL BLOW, PRINCE GEORGE'S COUNTY PUBLIC SCHOOLS: Well, I think that that's where the training comes in.
TODD (voice-over): Blow is the head of security for Prince George's County Public Schools in Maryland, a former deputy police chief who once had to once lock down a school. He took us through an elementary school that officials didn't want us to name, showed us what to do if that nightmare unfolds.
TODD: Exits are obviously key , right. You have got to find the nearest one?
BLOW: Absolutely. Absolutely. And it's important to be familiar with the building. That's why again we encourage just little things, just a building familiarization, just walking the outside of the building so you know if you leave this particular door, if it comes to a creek or a parking lot or a busy intersection.
TODD (voice-over): Adults and students, he says, have to have that exit awareness, but if you're stuck inside --
TODD: -- Michael Blow says while bathrooms may be a tempting place to hide first, not a good idea. As you can see, a very confined space and usually no way out.
TODD (voice-over): Courtyards, he says, are equally tempting but also not the best places because they're often enclosed.
TODD: Michael, if this is a classroom, there's a gunman out there, we've heard shots, we don't know where he is, what do we do? Do we lock and turn lights off, close windows?
BLOW: Well, certainly there are a host of things that we would do in an emergency. That would include locking doors, to make sure that we are able to fortify that entranceway as best as we can, again, if there are no safe alternatives for evacuating the building. And that way if someone was to walk by the room, that they wouldn't have an easy sight picture of anyone that is in the room.
TODD (voice-over): Adults in the room, he says, should talk the kids through it as calmly as possible.
TODD: What about large rooms like gyms?
BLOW: Well, again --
TODD: Do you go in? Avoid it?
BLOW: Well, again, there's not a lot of places to conceal yourselves, as you see there. But there's a way to get to the other side of the building.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, we want to add another voice to the conversation about school safety. Hector Garcia is joining us now. He has devoted much of his professional life to protecting kids in schools.
A former school police chief, he joins me now from West Palm Beach, Florida.
Mr. Garcia, I appreciate you being with us. We've made, obviously, strides since the Columbine School shooting back in '99. But where are we now and what more do you think needs to be done?
HECTOR GARCIA, SECURITY CONSULTANT: Well, first of all, thank you, Anderson, for having me.
One of the things that I would advocate for is a -- once again a resurgence of the grants that were provided by the federal government that, in fact, effectuated so many of these training sessions for our school teachers and our children and the staff members that they performed so admirably during these tragic times with as a result of that training that was administered under grant programs.
In addition, other grant programs, as putting school police officers in schools where they can advocate also and be those protectors for the schools have fallen onto budget cuts as well. We would like to see that come back into effect.
In addition, there have been many studies granted by the U.S. Secret Service. There are many advocacy groups, a school safety advocacy council, National Association of School Law Enforcement Officers who all came together and drew upon the best practices and the lessons learned and developed many of these plans.
We would like to see a resurgence of that again so that we can hone what we have now and make it even better, because that is something that was vital in this tragedy.
COOPER: I was -- and I think it's a good point that you raised about the training, because I was amazed in talking to some of the teachers that I talked to tonight and also last night a lot, just how they had drilled for some sort of an event, whether it was like this or some sort of emergency event.
They got the kids into the corners. In one case, the teacher sat the kids down and read to them to kind of keep them calm and continued to read all the way through this until SWAT team members knocked on the door and told everybody it was OK to come out. How widespread is that kind of training in schools across the country?
GARCIA: Well, Anderson, this is -- this training is now mandatory in so many states. And I believe that it is widespread throughout the country.
Now, the frequency of the training is critical. The larger school districts are going to do more training and more drills and therefore be better prepared.
I question those private schools, those private institutions, maybe the smaller ones that are not really focusing on this as much to really step up to the plate. And also come to these same levels of frequency of training and drilling. And of also reviewing, as the experts said earlier, those exit plans. Have things changed around their neighborhoods?
You have to continue to live this -- make it a living document and continue to evolve and to master that crisis plan and drill it down, drill it down, all the way to the teachers and even the parents who may be there.
COOPER: Mr. Garcia, I appreciate your expertise. I appreciate you joining us in this important discussion. Thank you.
The tragedy in this community, it's touched people around the world. I mean, this is -- this has made the front page of papers all around the world.
In England, several soccer teams wore black armbands today to honor the victims of the tragedy. One team noted that the tribute was at the request of the players themselves.
Take a look at these pictures from Brazil, a makeshift memorial on a beach in Rio de Janeiro, black crosses for each of the victims. World leaders from Australia to Britain offered their sympathies. Many newspapers, as I said, around the globe, compared the tragedy to ones that unfolded on their own soil.
And some speculated whether this could be the event that even shifts America's attitudes on gun control, either because of the age of the victims or, in the words of an editorial in Britain's "Observer," quote, "because Americans can only tolerate so many senseless deaths from gun violence."
In many ways, tragedies like this leave everyone feeling helpless. But there are ways for you to help those affected. If you want more information, go to CNN.com/impact. There's a lot of good information there. Be right back. (MUSIC PLAYING)