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Special Coverage of Connecticut School Shooting

Aired December 15, 2012 - 21:00   ET


DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: This is CNN. And this evening, we are live in Newtown, Connecticut, a community in shock and mourning, just one day after an horrific event that will stay with them forever.

I'm Don Lemon, everyone. And with me this evening also in Newtown is my colleague, Soledad O'Brien.

Hi, Soledad.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening to you, Don. This evening we are in front of the Newtown Methodist Church. There are many churches in this town. And here, as like the other churches in town, they've opened it up. People have been coming in and are inside right now to pray or just to sit quietly and reflect.

There is no official service happening. And they don't intend to have one through tonight. But they say that they've had many people come through and they are trying to be one of the many places where people in the community can go and heal.

We are talking, police say, to everyone who knew the shooter. That's where part of their investigation is going. Also, police say they're going to talk to the one adult who was injured in the shooting in the school. They use the words instrumentals to describe what she might be able to provide. They're piecing together now what happened. I want to get to Tom Foreman, he has a look at the timeline of events that spanned three states.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Police are searching over an immense area for any clue is to why this happened, they search the brother's apartment down here in New Jersey, across New York, out to Connecticut. They searched the mother's home where they found her dead, and of course, they've done an awful lot of looking at the school itself, because they believe that the gunman went directly here after his mother's murder, and emerged from his car in the parking lot, carrying weapons very much like these. But what happened then? Let's look at the timeline based on police radio reports and eyewitnesses. 9:30 in the morning, that's when we believe that he emerged from his car and headed into the school here. We don't know that this is his car, but they've paid an awful lot of attention to this vehicle over the past few days. Here's also where he encountered his first barricade because there was a security system on the doors there, recently put in by the principal where you would have to be buzzed in. Police later found that the glass here had been shot out or broken out in some fashion. That seems to be how he entered the school. So what happened after that. Well, the first call to the police that said there was a problem came at 9:36. The first call saying there is gunfire inside the school. Obviously, people in the school knew it because they could either hear it directly or because they heard it over the school's P.A. system. There were announcements to be made at the time. All the shooting, remember, took place in .a very small area, up in this part of the school. So it was important that everybody else have some idea that this was going on, so that they could try to be safe in these circumstances. Beyond that, what happened? At 9:38, police were saying already, they were hearing reports that the shooting was over. An incredibly short period of time. Two, two and a half minutes maybe where the bulk, if not all of the shooting took place.

What was the next phase of all of this? The next phase came at about 9:40, police at the school said we need some emergency medical services here. That was the first call for ambulances. It was for two ambulances to begin with. And then as they realized they had many more victims in a matter of minutes, there was a call for many, many more emergency medical technicians and ambulances to come to the school. And then surprisingly, by 9:50 in the morning, we just put at this because the times have been a little bit loose, by 9:50 in the morning, police were essentially saying that they had a suspect who was down, meaning they had one suspect who was dead. They had secured the building to some degree. They cleared the building, is the language they used and a lot of the kids were being led away. This is the picture from the "Newtown Bee," by the way, of the kids being led away there. In any event, you can see this is a very short period of time, from 17 to 20 minutes that this went from nothing happening to all of these events happening that have changed the lives of so many people. And police will continue going over and over and over again, the details of the movement of this shooter and his victims to try to get a better understanding of precisely how it all happened.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Tom Foreman with a look at the timeline for us tonight. Let's go right back to Don Lemon. Don?

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Soledad, that's what happened inside the school. I have some new developments to tell you about from here in Newtown. First, we need to tell you that the president, President Barack Obama will be here tomorrow. The White House says the president will meet with the families of the victims, the 20 children and the six adults killed in their elementary school yesterday. Also, we have reaction this evening from Peter Lanza, he is the father of the 20-year-old police, say, killed those people and then killed himself. The father says, quote, "Our family is grieving along with all those who have been affected by this enormous tragedy. No words can truly express how heartbroken we are." Now, let me show you this picture that was just obtained by CNN. It shows Adam Lanza, back in 2005. He would be about 13 years old in this picture. And we have word tonight from police who are trying to learn why this young man would commit such an horrific act. They say and they have found very good evidence in Adam Lanza's home that is helping them put together the puzzle pieces in this investigation. That home is also a crime scene now. Investigators say Lanza's mother was killed in that house before the deadly rampage at the school. Soledad, so many more details to emerge about this story. And we are - this is just the beginning of it.

O'BRIEN: Yeah, no question about that, Don. We want to talk a little bit more about one of the more remarkable testimonials that we heard today. It came from a man named Robbie Parker. And he was speaking about his daughter Emilie. And while he was emotional and just absolutely devastated, the compassion that he was able to show was stunning. Kyung Lah was there while he was talking to reporters and has more for us. Kyung, tell me a little bit about what he told the reporters that had assembled to hear his story.

KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, very first name we heard was that he want to say thank you. One of the reasons why he came forward that he called reporters to this church here, a church he'd only belonged to for eight months because he moved here for a job at the hospital to take care of newborn children. A man who dedicated his life to care for children, then having to lose his child. Well, he called the reporters here. He wanted to say thank you because so many people had reached out to his family to say we are so sorry, we are so horrified. You know, you can imagine how this man feels. He lost his child, but he wanted to take that moment and then express that he wanted to make sure that people understood that society should not be defined by this moment. Here's a little bit of what he said.


ROBBIE PARKER, EMILIE'S FATHER: I was leaving to work and she woke up before I left and, I've actually been teaching her Portuguese. And so our last conversation was in Portuguese. And she told me "Good morning and asked how I was doing. And I said that I was doing well. She said that she loved me. And I gave her a kiss and I was out the door. As the deep pain begins to settle into our hearts we find comfort reflecting on the incredible person that Emilie was, in how many lives that she was able to touch in her short time here on Earth. Emilie was bright, creative and very loving. My daughter Emilie would be one of the first ones to be standing and giving her love and support to all of 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 are the gifts that were given to her by her heavenly father.


LAH: And what he wanted to share is that he wanted to be like his daughter, that he was not angry, that he wanted to help other people. He says he now belongs to this group of parents, 20 sets of parents who now know exactly how it feels to lose your child in such a horrible way. But he also wanted to make sure that parents around the country and around the world understood that you can not take your children for granted, and you really, truly have to cherish them whenever you can. Soledad?

O'BRIEN: Kyung Lah, reporting that story for us. Thank you, Kyung. It was interesting to hear him as well in that press conference talk about his family's faith and the degree to which that was helping his family cope at this time. And to also see reporters who had surrounded him to, you know, take pictures or record that interview, crying as he spoke because he was so emotional. We wanted to play a little bit more of what Robbie Parker had to say, as he remembered his daughter Emilie in the most heartfelt and touching ways. Listen.


PARKER: I would really like to offer our deepest condolences to all the families who are directly affected by this shooting. It's an horrific tragedy and we want everybody to know that our hearts and our 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. 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. I have two really good friends at home who have set up a Facebook page to help raise money for Emilie. And when I've gotten on that and just seen the number of people who have commented and expressed their condolences, it's been quite overwhelming.

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. She was their best friend. They were all born within three years of each other, so by law they're very close. She was teaching my middle daughter to read. She would help my youngest daughter learn how to make things, show her how to do crafts. They looked up to her. And they looked to her when they needed comfort. Usually that's same for a mom and a dad, but it was really sweet to see the time someone of them would fall or one of them would get their feelings hurt, how they would run to Emilie to get support and hugs and kisses. She was the type of person that could just light up a room. She always had something kind to say about anybody. And her love and the strength that she gave us and the example that she showed us is remarkable. She is an incredible person and I'm so blessed to be her dad.

I was leaving to work and she woke up before I left and I've actually been teaching her Portuguese and so our last conversation was in Portuguese. And she told me good morning and asked how I was doing. And I said that I was doing well. She said that she loved me and I gave her a kiss and I was out the door. Free agency is given to all of us to act and choose, to do whatever we want and God can't take that away from us. And I know that's something that he was given and that's what he chose to do with it. And I know that God can't take that away. I'm not mad because I have my agency to make sure that I use this event to do what I can, to do whatever I can. To want to make sure that my family and my wife and my daughters are taken care of and that if there's anything that I can do to help anybody at anytime, anywhere, that I would be willing to do that. 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.


O'BRIEN: Comments from the father of six-year-old Emilie Parker who was one of 20 children who were killed inside the school that day. The reporters who were watching his remarks and people at home as well crying as they heard what he had to say. And what a selfless thing to talk about how he wanted to be in a position to help other people even with his own daughter gone. Let's go right back to Don.

LEMON: It is so heartbreaking. It's almost too much to take. I can't imagine how he is standing, Soledad. You know, little Emilie Parker was just one of 20 children, all of them either six or seven years old. Most of them girls. They were shot dead in their school yesterday along with six teachers and staff before the killer shot himself. And CNN's Susan Candiotti is also here in Newtown. And she's got the very latest on what progress the police are making.


SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Investigators are learning more each day that may explain what led 20-year-old Adam Lanza to launch a vicious attack on young children and adults at an elementary school.

LT. J. PAUL VANCE, CONNECTICUT STATE POLICE: Our investigators at the crime scene, the school, and secondarily at the secondary crime scene that we discussed where the female was located - deceased, did produce some very -- a very good evidence in this investigation. That our investigators will be able to use in hopefully painting the complete picture as to how and more importantly, why this occurred.

CANDIOTTI: Police won't say what that evidence is, however, investigators have been checking out gun ranges and sporting good stores. They followed a lead the shooter tried to buy a gun Tuesday at this location.

After searching store's surveillance videos, the tip didn't pan out.

GENE MARQUEZ, ATF ASSISTANT SPECIAL AGENT: To date, ATF hasn't uncovered any information that would substantiate the fact that he tried to acquire guns recently. We are out there actively investigating.

CANDIOTTI: Federal gun agents also said they recovered weapons at the home the shooter shared with his mother: sources say, three more guns were found. These three rifle models, all older. They're being traced. At least one has been connected to the mother. Three more weapons were discovered with the shooter in a classroom where he took his own life. According to law enforcement officials, the two handguns and semiautomatic long gun called a bushmaster were bought legally by his mother. The chief medical examiner says that long gun was used to kill several victims.

N. WAYNE CARVER II, CONNECTICUT CHIEF MEDICAL EXAMINER: I only did seven of the autopsies. The victims I had ranged from three to 11 wounds a piece and I only saw two of them with close-range shooting. All of the ones that I know of at this point were caused by the long weapon.

CANDIOTTI: One relative describes the shooter as being a very bright young man who at times was home schooled by his mother. A law enforcement official tells us that his older brother says that his younger brother was autistic, but so far nothing adds up to a motive. Susan Candiotti, CNN, Newtown, Connecticut.


LEMON: All right, Susan. Thank you very much. And undoubtedly, there's some progress, but some questions will never be answered in this investigation. And let's not forget, though, the first victim of this tragedy. The mother of the shooter. Next more about her and the weapons that ended up in the hands of her troubled son.


LEMON: Welcome back to CNN's special coverage. I'm Don Lemon along with my colleague Soledad O'Brien. We're here in Newtown, Connecticut. We want to get you caught up on what we have learned within just the past few hours on this investigation. We've learned the names and the ages of the victims in yesterday's shooting here in Newtown. Six women and 20 students died at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Now, that number includes 12 girls and 8 boys. 16 of the kids were only six years old. The others had turned seven in just the last few months. The father of the alleged shooter released a statement tonight. Peter Lanza says "Words cannot express his family's heartbreak. He says his family is in a, quote, "state of disbelief." We also learned that President Barack Obama will be coming here to Newtown tomorrow to meet with the families of those killed. And Soledad, remember just a few months ago, the president having to meet with the family of the victims in Colorado and now he's having to do it all over again here in Connecticut.

O'BRIEN: And yet, Don, we're getting a little more details about the president's schedule. We know he'll meet with those families who lost loved ones. And then he'll meet with first responders. We haven't talked a lot about the first responders, but their actions, especially in the face of what they must have seen inside that school. So incredibly heroic. And then he'll continue on for this interfaith meeting that is happening in the evening here. I want to talk a little bit more about the first victim that would be Nancy Lanza. She is the mother of the shooter. And we now know that she was killed by one of her own weapons. Apparently she was a gun enthusiast. But there are very few details beyond that that we know about her. David Ariosto has been looking into her story, and has more for us. David, what more do we know about this first victim?

DAVID ARIOSTO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, essentially, that's just what we came to this affluent neighborhood in Newtown to find out. We've been asking neighborhoods - neighbors in around this area here, and sort of the recurring theme that we seem to get is that she was just a very pleasant person to be around. She was a big fan of gardening. She was often landscaping in her backyard and often took to a game of dice that the community in this area would often have a few times a month, which really described as very much a tight-knit community. And so, that image of this woman who moved with her family in 1998, eventually divorcing her husband years later, but raised her two boys in this very picturesque New England town is countered by this person who collected guns. Not the only guns, but a bushmaster, you know, a very high powered weapon, Glock, Sig Sauer, these are weapons that some are considered high powered. Some are just sort of your run of the mill weapons, but nonetheless, a collection of weapons here that at times can seem somewhat at odds with this gardener who used to play in parlor games with ladies nights a few times a month with this very affluent community here. And it's hard to get a sense of it now, but many of these houses here, two and three-story homes, quite an affluent community. Many people move to this area because of the school districts. That seems to also be some of the recurring themes we talked to with both family members and others in this neighborhood. That they flock to this area because of the value of the school systems. So as tragic as this is, it hits a special note here in Newtown because of the draw, because of the school systems.

O'BRIEN: Let me ask you a question, David. Was there any indication -- we know that she was a gun enthusiast - any indication that that was something that she shared with her sons?

ARIOSTO: I'm sorry, Soledad, you said shared with herself? I couldn't quite hear that.

O'BRIEN: Shared with - I wanted to know if she - if she in any way shared her enthusiasm for weapons and in some cases high powered weapons with either of her sons, one that we now know is the alleged shooter in this case.

ARIOSTO: You know, that's an interesting question. We have been getting conflicting reports about that. We're talking to the federal agencies here in the area. And there are a number of gun ranges within about a 20 mile range of this area. We've spoken to some of the directors at some of those places. We do know that - that some of those areas were the location which authorities search and try to figure out casings. If this is an area that her son had shot at. But one of the individuals that I had spoken to earlier in the day said that she did show her brand-new rifle. She - from what this individual said, took them to target shooting. Now, that's contradicted by what some of these authorities are saying from the ATF, from the FBI. So it's a bit of a muddled picture exactly how she used these weapons, whether they were just simply collector's items that sat in her house or that she was just actually out there and using them on a frequent basis. Regardless, there were six weapons that potentially could have been used by the shooter. And unfortunately he did get his hands on some of them and made use of them.

O'BRIEN: Incomplete portrait of Nancy Lanza to report to folks. David Ariosto for us this evening, thank you for that update. Let's get right back to Don Lemon.

LEMON: All right, Soledad, thank you very much. You know, the shooting here in Newtown is reviving the debate over gun control, and the Second Amendment to the Constitution, most people think that they know what it says, but here's the actual text. We'll put it up. You decide for yourself what right it guarantees. "A well regulated militia." There it is. "A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state. The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed." You know, this tragedy will once again fuel the debate over our right to bear arms in this country. And just how much regulation should there be regarding the accessibility of guns. I want to bring in now Lou Palumbo, a former police officer, and he's now the director of the Elite Intelligence and Protection, it's a New York-based company. No one is talking about removing the right to bear arms. When you look at this, it says "a well regulated militia, being necessary for the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed." What is - That does not mean that you can go out and buy as many weapons as possible and go out and be able to shoot people. It's talking about if the government becomes a tyranny, is that not correct?

LOU PALUMBO, DIRECTOR, ELITE INTELLIGENCE & PROTECTION: That's part of the theory. I mean, to be able to keep the citizens free in the event that the government - the climate or the mentality of the government changes. But I think the confusing issue here deals with the accessibility of these weapons by people who are not mentally or emotionally stable. I'm supporter of the Second Amendment. That's part of our Constitution, you should support the Constitution.

LEMON: Most Americans are.

PALUMBO: Yes, the problem we are having, Don, is we're having people acquiring firearms in our country today who are having problems mentally and emotionally. The thing that I mentioned earlier to you on another show is that the vetting process for us in law enforcement includes psychological screening before they give us a handgun. That same standard does not apply to other people in the United States. We can just walk in on a driver's license, not know you from a hole in the ground and in two days, as in Wisconsin, acquire a handgun. This is the problem. I think that we have to evolve with the times. This was a different America when we wrote this amendment to the Constitution. And I think we need to hit a cord of sensibility and decency and understand that we need to be pliable, we need to come to compromise. And that applies to both extremes here, the NRA, whose philosophy is if you can see lightning and hear thunder, you should have a gun, and extreme left liberal who thinks we're going to get rid of 300 million guns, which is an--


LEMON: That's not going to happen, and I told you on an earlier show, when during the Colorado shooting, the theater massacre. I went in, and within 20 minutes, not even a resident of Colorado, was able to buy an AR-15 and all the ammunition that went along with it by just showing them a driver's license and filling out the paper work.

PALUMBO: You know what that is, though? Not the problem, symptom of the problem. Americans are scared today, too. You know, when you turn on the TV and every other minute we're listening to shootings in movie theaters, you're wondering can you bring your children to a movie theater. Christmas time you think your children and your family are safe in malls. Schools, Texas A&M and Virginia Tech. Now this grammar school. You know, what's happening here is we're affecting the psyche of the average American. And what they're doing is the knee-jerk reacting by going out and acquiring this tool that they think is going to keep them safe, which in theory it will with proper training ...

LEMON: Right.

PALUMBO: ... which very few people are receiving except for us in law enforcement.

LEMON: And there are two different schools of thought here, and it's two - two different realities. There's the violent, the culture of violence that had - that people who don't have respect for guns. And they are not very well trained with guns, and then there are people like you and other people who go out, they know about guns, they learn about them, they go to the shooting range, they handle them respectively, and they're very knowledgeable about guns. So the disconnect here is what?

PALUMBO: Education. You see, we become educated in how to handle and manage these things. Kind of like this issue about safeguarding them. This is the second shooting in a week that we've had someone acquire a gun because of someone failing to properly safeguard these weapons.

LEMON: And what about the responsibility of those who legally - who own those guns?

PALUMBO: Absolutely. You see, in law enforcement it's impressed upon us the need to safeguard our weapons and there's a severe penalties for you in the event that you lose one. For example, if you think putting it in the top dresser drawer in your home is safeguarding it, as a law enforcement agent, when someone breaks in and takes it, the penalty is extreme.

LEMON: I think in Colorado, I think gun ownership and applications have gone up by what - 40 percent within just the last year or so?

PALUMBO: Gun sales in general are going through the roof. Especially since the president was elected. You know, this is the dynamic that's going on in America.

LEMON: When you said that, it reminds me of the thing, he's coming to get your guns. And no one has proposed any sort of legislation on any side and this president has not come to get anybody's guns.

PALUMBO: Well, the interesting thing is I also heard this president very intelligently make a remark when he was challenged about reinstating the 1994 Clinton assault rifle ban, he said the following -- we're going to focus on enforcement. That's the key. But there's a problem inherent to that, because you need resources to do that, Don. You've got to have personnel and you've got to have money to support that. And all these things we're experiencing like in gun shows where you can walk in, and walk out with a gun, without any identification requires an enforcement mechanism. You've got to have money and you've got to have personnel to enforce that. It's a complicated problem. But I have to say this to you, Don. Even if we institute or reinstitute the Clinton assault rifle ban of '94, I don't think it's going to change things much. Because there's so much ignorance in the way we develop these laws and a lack of familiarity on how to go toward with it, you can choke on it.

LEMON: And it's so politicized. When people talk about taking a look at gun laws in this country, again, we are saying, no one is saying take away your right to bear arms. This is not a left or right -- well, it is. It's actually a left and right issue ...

PALUMBO: ... and in between.

LEMON: It's an intelligent argument that our conversation that we should be having, not one about which side of the political aisle you're on.

PALUMBO: Well, the thing I will say to you is that all I want to do is know a little bit more about you other than the fact that you haven't been arrested.

LEMON: Yeah.

PALUMBO: And I think that's reasonable. And I would debate this with the NRA until the cows came home. And on the other side of the fence, again, the extreme left liberal people that think they're going to wave a magic wand and make 300 million weapons we're aware of go away. You cannot --


LEMON: And you're going to create a black market if you ..

PALUMBO: We've already done that. You know, what's interesting, is that New York has the most restrictive gun laws in the United States. We have very good gun laws. We now have the biggest black market for them also. Or guns filter in through states like Georgia, Virginia, Arizona.

LEMON: Right. PALUMBO: You know, we know where they're coming from. And I go back and say what I've said before, you've got to have resources to go in and arrest that problem and you don't have it.

LEMON: And the president says meaningful ways - to have meaningful changes in this country when it comes to gun laws and a meaningful conversation. And that means not politicizing it in Washington.

PALUMBO: We need compromise.

LEMON: Thank you.

PALUMBO: My pleasure as always, Don. My pleasure is always.

LEMON: You know, most of us can't even imagine what the people here in Newtown are going through right now. But we spoke to some people who didn't have to imagine such a horrible event. They went through it years ago. Columbine survivors talk about the tragedy and how they got through their tragedy in 1999. That is next.


O'BRIEN: People in Newtown, Connecticut are really trying to come to grips with the tragedy that has happened here. Miranda Pacchiana is a mom, and her children went to school - at this elementary school, her son Jackson included, she knew the principal there and also other woman who was the school psychologist. I want you to tell me a little bit about those women who are now being really hailed as heroes and whose loss is being felt very deeply in the community.

MIRANDA PACCHIANA, FRIEND OF PRINCIPAL: Yeah, we are still proud of our principal, and Ms. Sherlach. They really exemplified what Newtown and Sandy Hook and Sandy Hook school mean to us. Sandy Hook, all three of my children went there. And it is a very special school. Everybody went extra mile for children. It even won a Vanguard Award a few years ago for innovation. I knew the principal - the former principal and then my youngest child was there when -when - I'm sorry. When this principal, Dawn Hochsprung worked there. Dawn Hochsprung had a very special kind of (inaudible), she was unlike of other administrators. And she wasn't - she didn't have a formality to her. She had a big, beautiful smile that you can see in those pictures. She was warm, she exuded caring for the children and just love, and I think that she really proved on Friday that she had the children's best interest at heart.

O'BRIEN: What happens next in this community? I mean I don't think anybody anywhere could imagine this sort of tragedy happening. I'm sure people here thought this would never ever happen.

PACCHIANA: Of course.

O'BRIEN: It's a cliche, but I think it's something people thing. So, well, how do you heal from that? PACCHIANA: We band together as a community. We - this town is 300 years old and it's been, you know, it's going to go on. We will support each other as we always have done. We'll be here for the families and we'll pull together. And, you know, I believe in hope and compassion and even forgiveness, and I think that there's a lot of all of that in this town and we'll be OK.

O'BRIEN: Miranda and Jackson (ph), we appreciate your time this evening.

PACCHIANA: Thank you. Thank you so much.

O'BRIEN: Thanks for coming up to talk to us.

This is - as very common theme for many of the families that we've had a chance to talk to today, Don. This sense that as awful as it is, they are coming together, and as - the church over my shoulder, the Methodist church, it's has kept its doors open and people have been streaming in all night. They don't have any kind of formal service this evening. But they made it clear that their doors are open, and people can come in and pray or just sit and be together. And that is - not just here, at this particular church, the many churches in the area have really opened up their doors and they're trying to spiritually bring this community together. Don, back to you.

LEMON: A lot of comfort needed in this community, Soledad. And while that is happening, we want to get you up to speed on the very latest from here in Newtown, Connecticut. President Barack Obama will be here tomorrow. The White House says the president wants to meet the families of the 20 kids and six adults who were killed in their school yesterday. And as for the man who allegedly killed all those people, police say they're making progress, piecing together what may have driven Adam Lanza to such an horrific act. They've been inside his home where investigators believe he killed his mother before setting out for Sandy Hook Elementary School.

A state medical examiner talked with reporters, and he says, every victim was hit by more than one shot. Some of them were shot more than ten times. Police found three guns besides the suspect's body.

Most of us can't even imagine how this can happen. But some people can, because they've been through it before. And CNN's Josh Levs tells us how victims of the 1999 Columbine shooting are reacting to the horror.


JOSH LEVS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Millions of people all over the world are mourning for the people who were killed in the Connecticut, but there is certain group of people in this country, a very small group, fortunately, that can associate in a way that most of us cannot imagine. These are people who know what it's like to be at school when a typical day turns into carnage. Some of them are survivors of the Columbine massacre, 14 years ago, some of whom are now parents themselves. I spoke with one who is now a mom, Casey Johnson.

CASEY JOHNSON, COLUMBINE SURVIVOR: You lose the sense that things could never happen to you. You know, so many parents would say, this would never happen to my child's school. Well, for me as a parent of a child, I believe this could easily happen at my child's school. But that's because it has happened to me before. I would hope that the people involved will walk beside these children and the families for the years to come. They have years and years of healing that they're going to be facing. And I hope that we can come beside them and encourage them and focus positively on the lives of the ones that were lost.

LEVS: And I want you to meet Sean Graves. Sean was shot six times at Columbine. He ended up spending more than a year in a wheelchair and to this day, he has some pain because of it. I spoke with him about how the news from Connecticut is affecting him.

SEAN GRAVES, COLUMBINE SURVIVOR: I live with pain physically on a daily basis because of the injuries that I sustained. But looking back then, I try not to think about it. But when something like this happens, that's the first thing you really do, you begin to relive it. And turning on to the, you know, putting on the news and just watching the coverage live from this point of view versus where I was then. It will take you through an emotional toll, that's for sure.

LEVS: And a lot the survivors of Columbine were actually reaching out to families in Connecticut, some of them have formed a group now. They reach out to families after mass shootings. And they are just among the many around the world who are mourning in the wake of this tragedy.

We invite you to share your thoughts, condolences, in "I-"


O'BRIEN: Sam Granillo is one of those reaching out. He is a survivor of the Columbine massacre and is also a filmmaker. The film that he's made is called "Columbine Wounded Minds." And he's with us. It's nice to talk to you. When you first saw this unfolding live, we just heard from a young man who said it sort of all came back to him. And it was - it was just, you know, horrifying to see it unfold. And I have to imagine for anybody who survives something similar, it must be the very same thing for you, that you sort of flash back to that moment at Columbine. Is that true?

SAM GRANILLO, COLUMBINE SURVIVOR: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, it's just - it's completely numbing, you know, right off the bat. Sort of -- at first, when I turned on the TV and I saw it, it was a feeling of denial. I didn't really believe that it was happening again. And then, you know, you start getting the texts and the e- mails, phone calls and then it just sort of sinks in and then I start reliving all those moments all over again.

O'BRIEN: Tell me about the film that you've made. Because I think there are lessons in that film that could be helpful to the people who are here in Newtown. What's the film about?

GRANILLO: So, I'm making a film project that basically helps the future look better for those who survive through these kinds of tragedies. Because what I went through with Columbine, I was a junior at the time and I was in the cafeteria. I lost a bunch of friends. And I went through some pretty horrific things, and right after that, I didn't feel like anything was wrong with me. And it took about ten years until there was something that I felt that I needed to get worked on. I was having some chronic nightmares and some other PTSD- type symptoms. And, you know, I went back to reach out to my community and to see what kind of help there was still there for us. And it dried up many, many, many years ago. And so this is to try and find some sort of solution, you know, for those long-term healing effects for, you know, large communities. Because it's really hard to get individual help for this amount of people, you know, on this large of a scale. So, you know, what I'm finding is that all these communities are really the answer to all these things. So this is what that film is about, is finding those communities and finding the answers to this long-term healing.

O'BRIEN: It seems like a message might be for those who are trying to decide, do they get counseling, do they take advantage of the counseling that's here and now. You would say yes because, you know, all those years down the road, it may not be there. And you will be dealing with some serious challenges.

GRANILLO: Absolutely. I mean counseling for me right off the bat, it was kind of - it was difficult, because I was - I was in a room with someone that I wasn't really familiar with and I wasn't really comfortable with sharing my story, but what helped me the most was reaching out to all my friends and family, and other people that could understand. You know, those are the people that are going to get you through this in the long run. You know, several years down the road when you need someone to reach out to you, you're really going to focus on the people that you connect with in the beginning. So, you know, that's the main thing. I mean go out and get some therapy if you really need it. But, you know, the best thing that you can do is really just be there, you know, with the ones that you love.

O'BRIEN: Sam Granillo who has written and shooting a new film about his experience of the Columbine. Thank you for talking with us tonight. We appreciate your time.

GRANILLO: Thank you so much for having me, appreciate it.

O'BRIEN: We want to go right back to Don Lemon.

LEMON: All right, Soledad, thank you. There are stories of heroism that have come out of the tragedy here in Newtown. One of those stories is next.


LEMON: Let's get a quick update on this story for you. Tomorrow will be another emotional day here in Newtown. President Obama will travel here to meet with the victims' families. He's also going to attend an interfaith vigil scheduled for tomorrow evening. Police here say they are finding what they call very good evidence in their investigation. They also say a woman who was wounded at the school is providing information and will be, quote, "instrumental to the investigation." The father of the shooter has released a statement. Peter Lanza says "Words cannot express his family's heart break. He says the family is in what he calls "a state of disbelief." Peter Lanza's ex-wife Nancy was the first victim. Police believe her son shot her at her home before heading to the elementary school. Nancy Lanza was a gun collector and the guns used in the shootings belonged to her. Let's send it back now to Soledad.

O'BRIEN: All right, Don, thank you. There was a vigil tonight for Victoria Soto, she was one of the very first victims that was announced publicly and identified publicly. 27 years old, a first grade teacher. And she was killed, shot and killed in her classroom. But she's being hailed today as a hero. Kate Bolduan spoke to a couple, some parents who say they believe that their son's life may have been saved because of this young teacher.


KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Robert and Diane Lucata had two children at that elementary school yesterday, a second-grader and their son in the first grade who they say it is a miracle he made it out alive after coming face to face with the shooter.

ROBERT LUCATA, FATHER OF ONE OF SOTO'S STUDENTS: And that's when they heard noises that he described as initially they thought were hammers falling. Then they realized that it was gunshot. And Ms. Soto, who was Aden's teacher, had the presence of mind to move all the children to a distance away from the door on the side of the room furthest away from the door. And that's when the gunman burst in, did not say a word, no facial expressions, and proceeded to shoot their teacher. And they basically ran right next to the guy and out the door.

BOLDUAN (on camera): They ran past the gunman.

LUCATA: They ran past the guy. He's still standing in the door and they ran past him and ran down the hallway and they're one of the closest rooms to the main entrance. And Aden was -- had the presence of mind to hold the door for one of his classmates. And then there was another one of his classmates that was a little behind. And waited for him and then they all ran to the road, to the main road. All the way down.

BOLDUAN (voice over): And of course, we now know his teacher, Victoria Soto, died in that classroom trying to protect her students.

(on camera): He knows his teacher was shot. Do you think he knows that she likely did not make it?

DIANE LUCATA, MOTHER OF ONE OF SOTO'S STUDENTS: He keeps asking about her. And I think he's reassuring himself that she's going to be OK. He really, really cared about his teacher. He was very close with her. And she really loved that class. 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 six-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. We had to put the sign out in the front today asking people not to ring the doorbell because he still hasn't internalized the fact that this gunman, this bad guy is gone. And he wants to know if there are more bad guys in the world. And I don't know how to answer that question properly and so when someone rings the doorbell, he thinks it's him coming back, coming for him. And so he -- so I think our biggest concern now is making sure that we handle his sensitive nature properly and carefully and support him and support our daughter because she again does process things very differently than he does. So that's our job as parents now is to stay close to them, hold them, hug them, love them and let them know that they are safe.


BOLDUAN: The Lucatas did not want their children to be part of the interview. But I did spend time with them this morning. And Aden and his sister, they seemed in high spirits. But clearly shaken. And as hard as it has been for this family, they say that their hearts go out to the so many other families who cannot go home and hug their children tonight.

LEMON: Kate, thank you very much. And that family obviously hurting tonight like many others are. The Reverend David Spencer is a chaplain and a grief counselor and Wendy Walsh is a human behavioral specialist. And they both join me now. Thanks for joining us on such a really horrific event here. The bottom line, though, it is hard to think past this tragedy. Wendy, what do you say to people trying to get past this?

WENDY WALSH, HUMAN BEHAVIOR SPECIALIST: Well, you know, we have to understand that not only those children who witnessed things and the families who lost children are traumatized by this, but, Don, we're all traumatized by this. It's sort of secondary post-traumatic stress disorder that can occur from witnessing the story over and over on television. So, it's important that we contain ourselves and our emotions in front of our children, but still show compassion and love. Let them lead the conversation so we tell them in very simple, concrete terms about what happened. We reassure them that they are protected and safe with us. But more than anything, we watch for kids -- they have very different ways of dealing with trauma. They may regress. Your child may want to be in bed with you tonight. Your child may be bed wetting again after you are long past that. Your child may be back to whining and tantrums long after you thought that was dealt with. So, this is the time to not be critical and not over- parent, but just understand that this is part of the process for some children.

LEMON: And Reverend Spencer, you know, when we were growing up, the schools, our places of worship, they used to be safe havens. One place evil never struck. That has changed. So, how do you tell children and parents on Monday that their school is safe?

REV. DAVID SPENCER, CHAPLAIN, KENNESTONE HOSPITAL: Well, I think what's important is that we really be honest with our children and we talk about the fact that there is an evil in the world, but there's also a good. And then continuing to reassure them that things will be all right and then make sure that we're putting things in place to make sure that they know that things will be well. Constantly reminding them that we're there for you and we're supporting you. Then let them know that the people at the school or at church are there to support you through this time.

LEMON: And as we look at these pictures you're looking at, this is just down the square from where I'm standing. T his is a memorial that has been set up. And there are 24 candles that you see there -- 26, I should say, in honor of all of the victims in this tragedy. And Wendy, as we look at that, we have been hearing a lot about gun control and mental health. What's more important in this particular issue?

WALSH: You know, it's hard to say. The gun control debate has been going on for so long and nobody can figure out where and how to do the regulation that the Second Amendment mentions. You mentioned earlier when you read it, the word "well-regulated" is in there. But we definitely need some mental health reform. Unfortunately in America, you are free to be insane, you are free to not take your meds. You are free to be homeless, even. And you are free to kill. But when are we going to put compassion above freedom? And that may mean giving families and doctors more authority than we have been able to to keep people on their medication, so that they can have a better wherewithal to not make these choices. And I think that that's part of it, is that we need to understand that when an emerging mental health problem -- this young man was 20. Remember the Arizona shooter was around the same age.


WALSH: And this tends to be a time where if you're going to get schizophrenia as a male, the symptomology shows up. Now, we don't know this guy's diagnosis, but I just wanted to say that. And so, if you're over 18, your parent can't even get you help, you know, because it's not their responsibility anymore.

LEMON: Right.

WALSH: You're now a free adult.

LEMON: Yeah. Wendy, Reverend Spencer, thank you both very much.

SPENCER: Thank you so much.

LEMON: A little while ago, I took a walk through this town of 27,000 people. All of them still trying to process the horror of what happened just down the road.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) LEMON: Right behind me, that's the road that leads up to the school where this happened. It has been blocked off. You can see the sign here right across the street on that porch, it said, God bless Sandy Hook. That just about says it all. And right here in the middle of the square, 26 candles for all of the victims in this tragedy right here at the Time Square. And up the street, a church where the victims are being memorialized.

So, this is one of the intimate little squares here in Sandy Hook. You can see the little quaint stores, beautiful little stores. And then come this way, you can see just the media. And people have taken this square over. When I talk to people here, they say, there's never this many people. There are never this many people who come to this town on a Saturday or Sunday, and just to see how intimate and how beautiful this little town is, look, a creek that runs right through it. The people of this small town probably never dreamed that their town would be the focus of such pain and anguish and sorrow. This is the Newtown United Methodist Church, and this is where a lot of the media are camped out. They give preschool classes ages two to six, sadly some of the ages that the kids had died. There's the church behind me. It's been open now for 24 hours and it's going to be open for 24 hours for as long as they need it here. Some of the members of that church died and anyone who wants to come by and pay their respects to the people who died, anyone who needs help from this church, they can come here and get it.


LEMON: And talking to some of the people here, they say this square, Soledad, never this busy on a Saturday night. Many of these people just coming to pay their respects to the families and the people who were lost.

O'BRIEN: Emotionally dealing with that, and then on the investigative side, the medical examiner says he'll finish his postmortems on body of the shooter and his mother now deceased, and also, they say, there is evidence that helps them figure out the how and the why behind these killings, we'll have more information on that as we continue our coverage of this tragedy. Don.