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Sandy Hook Elementary Shooting in Connecticut Coverage; State Secretary Hillary Clinton Fainted and Advised to Rest at Home;

Aired December 15, 2012 - 18:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: An unimaginable tragedy, growing even more horrifying with every gruesome new detail we learn.


DOCTOR H. WAYNE CARVER II, CONNECTICUT CHIEF STATE MEDICAL EXAMINER: Everybody, death was caused by -- everyone we have completed so far was caused by gunshot wounds. And obviously, the manner of death on all of these cases has been classified as homicide.


BLITZER: A long time medical examiner calls it probably the worst thing he has ever seen in more than 30 years in this field. Most everybody hit more than once each with a semiautomatic rifle, and this.


NICK PHELPS, FATHER OF TWO CHILDREN AT SANDY HOOK ELEMENTARY: When I saw those teachers and I locked eyes with each of them separately, when I found the two children if I could go back I would -- I would embrace them because I had no idea what they had gone through.


BLITZER: The parents of children who survived the shooting struggle to come to terms with what their children and the teachers had to endure as we learn the names of all 26 people killed. Not one of those 20 children who died over the age of 7-years-old. They were six and seven years old, all first graders.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer, reporting here from Newtown, Connecticut.

Let's bring in our national correspondent, Susan Candiotti. She is joining us with more information, the very latest on the investigation, what are you learning, Susan?


Well, we're not going to dwell on the shooter's name, but he is twenty-year-old Adam Lanza, and we're learning today for the first time, more on how vicious some of the attacks were. This information coming to us from the chief medical examiner. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CARVER: All the wounds that I know of at this point were caused by the long weapon. I only did seven of the autopsies. The victims I had ranged from three to eleven, and I only saw two of them with close range shooting. But, that's, you know, that is a sample, I really don't have detailed information in the rest of the injuries. The bullets are designed in such a fashion that the energy -- this is very clinical, I shouldn't be saying this. But the energy deposited in the tissue, so the bullet stays in.


CANDIOTTI: Now, the long weapon that the chief medical examiner referred to is one of the three guns that our sources tell us were found next to the shooter in the classroom. You'll remember those three, two of them handguns, and the third a long gun, that we have come to know as a semiautomatic called a Bushwhacker. Now, what led up to the shooting, investigators are saying that they are learning more information about this -- I'm sorry -- I understand there may be a technical problem.

BLITZER: Susan I'm going to interrupt you for a moment. Because the brother of Nancy Lanza, the mother of the shooter, Adam Lanza, the brother, James Champion is speaking now in New Hampshire. He is a police officer.

JAMES CHAMPION, NANCY LANZA'S BROTHER: -- is involved in, is going to go through the Connecticut state police, and the local police. So you won't have any information coming from any department in this county about what they're doing on behalf of Connecticut. I can think I can say that law enforcement here is responding to any requests that Connecticut could make. And we will do anything that is asked of us to assist on that.

The Rockingham county sheriff, Mike Downing is here with me. He has a statement from the champion family he would like to read. And we -- after that, I guess we can try and answer questions, although we're not going to be answering questions about the investigation in general. So I'll turn it over to Sheriff Downing.

MIKE DOWNING, ROCKINGHAM COUNTY: Thank you, good evening. My name --

BLITZER: James Champion, by the way, is the brother of Nancy Lanza, he was going to make a statement. But he decided he couldn't because it is too emotional. So, we are hearing now from his colleagues. He is a police officer.

DOWNING: The family of Nancy Lanza share the grief of a community and nation as we struggle to comprehend the tremendous loss that we all share. Our hearts and prayers are with those who share in this loss. The families, teachers, staff and the students of Sandy Hook elementary school, the first responders and to all of us touched by this tragedy. On behalf of Nancy's mother and siblings, we reach out to the community of Newtown and express our heartfelt sorrow for the incomprehensible and profound loss of innocence that has affected so many. The family requests that you respect their privacy during their time of anguish and loss. Thank you very much.

CHAMPION: Are there any questions -- like I said, there is not an awful lot we can answer.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who called the FBI and other authorities --

CHAMPION: The only thing I can tell you is that law enforcement, generally, has obviously volunteered any assistance to Connecticut and are responding to any requests that come out of Connecticut. The requests that they're making of us and our response back to them will go through the Connecticut state police, and we won't have any comments about that other than we'll do anything we can to help.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can you maybe talk a little bit about her, what she is like --

CHAMPION: This is Chief Donald Briggs here.

DONALD BRIGGS, CHIEF POLICE: Very, very kind, considerate, loving young lady. She lived here a good part of her life. She was very involved in the community. Very well respected.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Chief, can you talk about the Champions in general, well known in town?

BRIGGS: I can tell you, small town, that Mrs. Champion, Dottie, worked as a school nurse at (INAUDIBLE) school for a number of years. A wonderful person, very good with children. Jim Champion worked for me for a number of years as the captain of the police department. And he currently works for me as a part-time officer as well as for Sheriff Downing as a deputy.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Have you spoken much to him since he has heard this news? Can you tell us anything about how he is doing?

BRIGGS: The whole family is traumatized by this event, very sad, very sad.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you know if he was in contact, has he expressed anything -- anything --

BRIGGS: I'm sorry I didn't hear. I have not.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can you tell us about --

BRIGGS: He has not.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What does he say about -- this day.

BRIGGS: I have not had a conversation with him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you know how close he was to Nancy and her sons?

BRIGGS: Very close.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When is the last time they were back here --

BRIGGS: I actually saw her last November when Jim Champion retired. I saw her at the retirement party. I haven't seen the children for -- since they left here in 1998.


BRIGGS: My understanding it was 1998, that was my understanding.

CHAMPION: Any other questions? OK, thanks a lot.

BLITZER: All right, so let me just put in perspective what we have just heard, and Sanjay Gupta is still with us, as well.

James Champion, Sanjay, is a police officer in Kingston, New Hampshire. He was going to be making a statement right now. His sister was killed yesterday. Nancy Lanza, the mother of Adam Lanza, the man who went in, the 20-year-old, and killed all of these people here in Newtown where we are. He is too emotional. His sister is dead. He is the uncle of this young man. But other police officers and the district attorney came out and spoke on his behalf. Wanting to say that they will obviously cooperate fully with this investigation.

Do you think of the enormity, though, here he is a police officer in New Hampshire. His sister is dead, his nephew is dead, kills himself after killing all of these young people, and six adults. I can only man what he can be going through.

DOCTOR SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: It sounded like he wanted to come out there and talk about it. I mean, certainly, you know, he had all intensions. That was what the press conference was about. And then, at the last moment, he, you know, came to distraught. He was too overcome to do it which, you know, I guess is not surprising, given the loss.

We talked about the people who died in the school, but the Lanza family, the Champion family, which is Lanza's brother in the case, you know, they're obviously trying to come to terms with this, as well. Incomprehensible is how they described it, the whole family being traumatized.

So, again, this whole notion that there is going to be answers provided by talking to the family, you know I'm just not sure that is going to happen. We still have not heard from them.

BLITZER: Yes, it is incomprehensible. Sanjay, standby. I want to bring Kate Bolduan.

Once again, Kate, we are getting more details every hour. The big question obviously though remains, and we may never fully get the answer why.

KATE BOLDUAN, CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. But people are asking that question, Wolf. You just heard that statement from the Lanza -- on behalf of the Lanza family. And all day, we have been gathering more and more information about the suspect and his family.

CNN's Ali Velshi is at the suspect's home.

Ali, you have been digging into this. We just heard from family members of Nancy Lanza. What are you learning about Nancy because she is also a victim in this crime?

ALI VELSHI, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, she is absolutely a victim. We're on a quiet street, about two and a half miles away from the school where Nancy Lanza lived with her son, Adam.

Now, beyond the police car, you can't see the house from here. It is an affluent area. Nancy Lanza was 52-years-old. The Lanzas moved into this area in 1997 or 1998, they purchased house in 1998. They may have lived here a little bit before that. They lived in the house together until Nancy and her husband, Peter, separated several years ago and divorced in 2009. And that left Ryan, the son who now lives in Hoboken, New Jersey. We saw that yesterday. He was taken into custody. And when Ryan left to work in New Jersey, it left Adam and Nancy living in the house.

Nancy worked in finance in Boston, and here in Connecticut. She recently stopped working, which is interesting. We don't know whether she was retiring from working or she was spending time at home. But she did seem to confide with some acquaintances that she wanted to take care of Adam full time. So they lived in this house right behind us until Friday morning, obviously. And we spoke to residents around here. It is a very quiet neighborhood. All the lights you see right now are from cameras. They are no street lights around here. Big houses on big lots. We spoke to one neighbor who said they seemed quite normal, listen.


JP MCDADE, NEIGHBOR: They were a quiet, seemingly friendly people. I don't think people in this neighborhood really knew them too well.


VELSHI: We also spoke to that is a young man whose mother we also spoke to who said look, that Nancy was into gardening. She had -- you know, they were not all that social with their neighbors, but they didn't know if they had a social circle outside of here. And that is the story, not a lot of information.

This area, they asked residents to leave, Kate, some had come back. But, it is an active crime scene behind us. Police say they're finding a great deal of information from the shooting scene at the house. But a lot of neighbors are not really talking about what is going on.

There is some confusion. This is a story where there are a lot of conflicting details all over the place. And one areas of confusions about these guns, where they came from, what they were used for.

Nancy Lanza apparently told a landscaper, who had done the Christmas decorations just recently on their house, that Nancy said to him that she was a gun enthusiast. She apparently showed him a gun, a rifle that she had recently bought and said she liked to take her kids for target shooting. The ATF has looked at some ranges in the area, and said they don't have evidence that the family went to local shooting ranges to shoot. But that is the latest information we are trying to dig out -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: It was surprising to some, Ali, that the information came out that the guns, while the number of guns and how many guns were on Adam Lanza at the time of the shooting at the school, it was surprising to many that the guns were legally purchased by Nancy Lanza.

VELSHI: Yes. And Connecticut actually has fairly restricted gun laws. You do have to do certain things, including take a course with the gun laws. Of the six guns we heard were are hearing were in the house, three of them were standard rifles. And the three that he took with him were semiautomatics, in which case you can shoot repeatedly with single trigger pulls. But those would have been the made the most sense of assault weapons. They're not called assault weapons, obviously. That is a different category of guns. But it does seem he had access to guns that were not registered to him. They were registered to Nancy, that is partly because Connecticut keeps such good record keeping about gun that authorities were able to find that out fairly quickly, Kate.

BOLDUAN: All right, Ali Velshi, great reporting this evening.

Wolf, I'm going to go back to you as so many questions remain. And as you said so many times, the question why? It doesn't look like it is ever going to be answered.

BLITZER: Yes, at least not completely to be sure.

Kate, thank you.

We're beginning also to put names and faces with some of those who lost their lives in this truly unspeakable tragedy. All six of the adults who died at the Sandy Hook elementary school were women. Here are some of their stories.


BLITZER (voice-over): Victoria Soto's family said she had her students hurdled behind her trying to protect them when she was shot and killed at the elementary school. Her cousin says the hardest part was waiting to hear whether she had survived or not.

JIM WILTSIE, COUSIN: And at that point, it was the hardest for the whole family, just a waiting game to receive word on what happened to Vicki's class.

BLITZER: Also killed, Lauren Russeau, hired just last month as a permanent substitute teacher. Her family says she always wanted to be a teacher since before she even went to kindergarten. School psychologist Mary Sherlach says on her web page, she has two daughters in their twenties, married 31 years and goes to a lake house with her husband, in upstate, New York.

And the principal, Dawn Hocksprung, who friends and parents described as fun and personable with kids, but serious about teaching.

DOUG RUSSELL, NEWTOWN HIGH SCHOOL TEACHER: She is an exciting, she was enduring, she was just incredible educator, and then to lose somebody like that in our district, you know, it is sad.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She was a personal friend and wonderful leader.

BLITZER: She had recently overseen the installation of a new security system, requiring every visitor after 9:30 a.m. to get buzzed in and show ID.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She truly did believe in creating an environment where children felt safe. I think that is really feel that is the tragic irony.

BLITZER: She was also a parent herself, raising two daughters and three stepdaughters. Friends and parents say Hocksprung was passionate and dedicated, tough but caring and one said, the kids loved her.

PHELPS: The principal, who, God bless her, lost her life, was just a very special person. And all the parents knew that.


BLITZER: Two other women also died at the school, Rachel Davino, only 29- years-old and Anne Marie Murphy, 52-years-old.

If you would like to help in this really horrific tragedy, you can donate to the services, the mental health clinic will be open all weekend from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. for grief counseling. There is a lot of grief going on right now. You can find all the information at

Parents of children who survived this shooting, it is a horrific shooting. They are struggling right now to come to terms with what they experienced. You're going to see one of those wrenching accounts, that is just ahead.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I can't look at my children's faces now without seeing the faces of every one of their school mates and all of their friends. And everything we're doing right now, saying, talking about Christmas. And just thinking your friends should all be here. It is so heavy -- so heavy on your heart.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: We're back here in Newtown, Connecticut. Our special the SITUATION ROOM coverage of this horrific mass shooting continues.

Twenty six people gunned down yesterday, six adults, all women, 20 children, six to 7-year-olds, first graders at an elementary school.

Here is Tom Foreman is joining us right now to break down the latest new information coming in on how this shooting happened -- Tom?

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, Wolf, if they're going to figure out the why in this case, why this has happened, investigators hope they can do so by retracing the steps that led up to it.

Right now, you have an investigation, it is really spanning three states. They looked at the brother's apartment down here in Hoboken, New Jersey, by the way, you may notice, it is just across from New York City. Many people have know, you are closed New York to Connecticut. And up here, they go to the mother's house. That's where they found her body yesterday morning. And this is where they seemed believe it all began with her murder yesterday morning. But of course, their big focus is on the school itself.

Let's move over there and take a look because authorities believe that after killing his mother, whether immediately, or after a period of time, we don't know the details yet, that the gunman went directly over to the school and there, he had these weapons in his car or some version of these weapons. And he began to move in on the school itself. We had a better, close picture of the timeline now looking at radio reports and other eyewitness accounts.

9:30 in the morning is when we believed he would have actually approached the school itself, leaving, we think, this car over here. They put a lot of focus on it. And even if it were this car, he would have come this way, and come up to the front doors. You mentioned earlier this new security system put in by the principal, that security system prevented, according to authorities, the first barrier to him because it was locked at a time. And there was a report later on from authorities that said the glass had been broken in some fashion, whether he kicked it out, or shot it out, whatever happened, somehow he went in the school and, this is important to note, the first report we have of actual gunfire occurring in the school is what was reported at 9:36 in the morning. That is when you hear the first police report saying we have gunfire occurring in the school.

We know from what witnesses said that everybody within the school knew the gunfire had started, in part, because some could actually hear the gunfire. Others heard it over a P.A. system in the office, and then some teachers called the offices and said is that gunfire? So, in fact, the word spread - spreading fast, even though, authorities say all the shooting occurred in a very small area up here near the front. Two rooms. It did not spread through the entire school, even though there were 600 students in the school.

Another important time to consider here, 9:38. I mentioned 9:38, because by 9:38, in a two and a half minute span, this is the point at which authorities say they're hearing that all the shooting is over. An incredibly short period of time.

Now I will say there is one extremist radio report from about seven minutes later of a few more shots, it is not clear if there is actually were shots then or they were saying somebody told them there were shots or if there was simply a delayed report of the shots. But the bulk of the shots appeared to have occurred in this very short window of time.

Then you move forward to 9:40. 9:40 in the morning, this is where you get the call at about 9:43, for the first emergency medical services. Two ambulances were called initially on police radio. And a short while later, just a minute or two later, they said no, we have more victims. Then there was sort of an indefinite call for as many ambulances and EMS people as they could get to the school because they knew they had a huge, huge problem on their hands.

And then, he is the part that is amazing about it, this is very true to what we suspected yesterday. We can pieced together yesterday. But now, we have more details, 9:40, we just put plus, plus, plus here, because it has been a little loose within the time. But we can say now with some certainty that by 9:53, the reports were that this was basically over with. There was an awful lot more to do. But the simple truth, by 9:53, the report was that they said they had a suspect down. Officers said they had cleared the building. It is not entirely clear to us at this point, meaning they cleared the building of possible shooters or they had cleared the building of all of the students in this picture, by the way, this is from the Newtown bee.

It is not clear if they cleared everybody out or just any another potential suspect out. And obviously, the work went on to sometime because we are on 10:00 and they were searching the roof of the building, as well.

But just as we reported yesterday, Wolf, the simple truth is all this happened in about a 17 to 27-minute time span. And again, most of it happened in a very small area here. But, as authorities tried to go through this timeline, just as we have, that with much more information and much more detail, that is where they're hoping to figure out some kind of why. What was the thing that made this person come to this school and do this horrible, horrible attack - Wolf.

BLITZER: The investigation obviously continues. So many questions have to be answered.

Tom, thanks very much.

Let's bring in Brian Todd right now. He has got a closer look at the shooter. The 20-year-old, Adam Lanza, you're getting new information, Brian, what are you learning?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, police say they are picking up what they call good evidence about Adam Lanza, his mother, and what may have led to this picking up evidence at the mother's house. They're not letting on what the evidence is, but we're getting some new details about the shooter's past and his family.


TODD (voice-over): His motive for this unspeakable act is still not clear, law enforcement officials say. And in digging for details about shooter, Adam Lanza, and his family, accounts emerged that are still confusing, sometimes conflicting.

A neighbor who knew him in recent years described Lanza as troubled. But listen to this account from a young man who knew him.


TODD: Just a kid?


TODD: Never anti-social?


TODD: Trouble maker?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, definitely not.

TODD: Noticeable? Did he just kind of blend into the background?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, nothing that would warrant any of this.

TODD: Ryan Craft says he babysat Adam Lanza about ten years ago when Lanza was ten and Craft was fifteen. He described Lanza as focus, quiet, introvert. He never saw evidence of violence, Craft says. But says, Lanza did throw the occasional temper tantrum.

RYAN CRAFT, ADAM LANZA'S BABYSITTER: Just general stuff like, I mean, I have to put him to bed and he would like better if we had to stop watching TV, and would lie down. You know, normal stuff that kids do, but I guess at ten years old, most kids get out of that phase. And that was not the case for Adam.

TODD: Craft was only a year over Adam's older brother, Ryan. He says their mother told him to let Ryan do whatever he wanted. But as for Adam --

CRAFT: What I really remember clearly is that, Nancy always asked me to always be with him in the room, no matter what like don't go to the bathroom. Don't ever leave him without supervision.

TODD: Craft says Adam had a contentious relationship with his mother, Nancy. She had split with the boy's father, Peter Lanza, who was described by the job networking Web site, LinkedIn as tax director and vice president at GE energy financial services.

But Craft says Nancy was an engaged mother, always setting up play dates for her two sons and taking part in neighborhood activities. Neighbors and friends say Nancy Lanza enjoyed gardening and had taken time off from a job in finance. GINA MCDADE, NEIGHBOR: Just like a normal anybody else in this neighborhood, you know, decorate the house, the house was always pristine. And, I mean, she was just like any other house wife.


TODD: But like her son, there are gaps in Nancy Lanza's story that still need to be filled in. She owned the weapons that Adam Lanza used in the killings, including the semiautomatic rifle, according to a law enforcement source. And it is not clear why she purchased those weapons - Wolf.

BLITZER: Brian, Adam Lanza had access to more weapons than the ones that he brought with him to the school.

TODD: That is right. We are told that he lived with his mother. And law enforcement sources say he had access to three weapons in addition to that ones that he used at that school. And reiterating, Wolf, they are picking up what they say is a lot of evidence at the mother's house. I'm sure we are going to be learning about that in the coming days.

BLITZER: We just got, Brian, a new photo of Adam Lanza. I'm going to show it to the viewers. There he is, right there, as a young boy, Adam Lanza. He was only 20-years-old when he went to this elementary school here in Newtown, Connecticut, killed 26 people, and then killed himself.

Earlier he killed his mother at the family home here in Newtown. That picture just coming in.

Brian, we're going to be getting a lot more information on this 20- year-old. And get more information on his 24-year-old brother, as well who lives in Hoboken, New Jersey.

TODD: We will, Wolf. In the coming days, Wolf, hopefully we'll be picking up a lot more information. You know, our teams are on the ground there, and we're scoping law enforcement sources and checking records of his backgrounds, talking to people who knew them. We are picking up more and more people everyday who knew this family. So, we are, hopefully, we are going to be piecing a lot of the story together in the next couple of days.

BLITZER: Yes, we certainly will, Brian, thank you.

Let's go back to Kate. She is working this story, as well.

Kate, the questions continue.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely, Wolf. Each one of the victims' stories is heart-wrenching, and it absolutely breaks everyone's hearts who hears their stories.

CNN's Jason Carroll spoke with the cousin of the first grade teacher, Vicki Soto, who died trying to protect her class, what are you learning, Jason? JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it is just an incredible story. And there are a lot of incredible stories, as you know, Kate, when you go over and you talk to some of the people who knew some of the victims, knew some of the faculty members. This is just one story of many.

I'm here in a Stratford, Connecticut. It is about 40 miles northeast of where you are. The reason why I'm standing in front of Stratford high school is because this is where Victoria, Vicki Soto graduated back in 2003. Her family described her as someone who really just cared about teaching, really wanted to be a teacher ever since she and herself was a little girl. That is the picture you see with her brother and her sisters. They described her also as someone who loved her students. In fact, they tell me she never even referred to her students as students. She called them her kids. They talked a little bit more about why they're going to be holding a vigil here tonight. And a little bit more about what happened in the classroom.


WILTSIE: 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 class and tried to protect the kids she loved so much.

CARROLL: And can you tell me a little bit more about how she tried to do that?

WILTSIE: 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, regardless of the intimate details that took place in that classroom, Vicki was doing what she knew was right in her heart, and what she was trained to do, to protect her kids.


CARROLL: And some of those who are going to the vigil have already started to gather here tonight. Expected to attend, Kate, are they are two sisters who you see in the picture there, her brother. Her mother is expected to be here tonight. Her father, as well. Her cousin who you just heard from there.

I'm told that what her family says that what they have been trying to do is trying to tell people in the community who are going to coming out, to try to find green hats, green gloves, anything that is green because green is one of her favorite colors. Apparently, there is going to be singing out here tonight, the choir will be here.

It is very hard for the family to cope. And one story in particular really resonated with me, at least, when they talked about one of the other thing that Vicki cared about deeply was her black Labrador, Roxy. And her family says that Roxy is just now been wondering around the apartment, just sort of looking for her, waiting for her to come home. And that is pretty much how the family feels. They are stunned, knowing that she will, of course, never come home again.

But again, the reason why, part of the reason why they're holding this vigil here tonight, is because they do not want the world, the country to see Victoria as just another victim. They want the world to remember her as a dedicated teacher, a loving sister, and a loving daughter --Kate.

BOLDUAN: Jason, I'm sure that Vicki Soto's family already knows this. But I sat down with the family, the parents of one of her first grade students this morning, and they could not say enough wonderful things about her as a teacher, saying that their son, who she protected, who he was able to get out alive and run to safety, that he cared about his teacher very, very much.

So, I am sure they would want to pass along that statement to Vicki Soto's family this evening.

Jason Carroll, thank you so much.

Coping with unspeakable tragedy, trauma, not only for the families of the dead but also, the victims.


PHELPS: The principal, who God bless her, lost her life, was just a very special person. And all the parents knew that.



BLITZER: We're continuing our special coverage of the elementary school killing here in Connecticut. Soledad O'Brien is here and she had a heart-wrenching interview with the parents of children who survived the shooting.


LAURA PHELPS, MOTHER OD TWO CHILDREN AT SANDY HOOK ELEMENTARY SCHOOL: Absolute, heroes. And when we went down to the fire house to get our children, we were unaware of the real tragedy at hand. I did not think children were involved. I thought this was isolated, a couple of teachers, maybe even just one. So when we got our children and I saw my son's teacher -- they were like ghosts. But they're incredibly composed. They had their sheets with them, checking off, making sure each child went with their parent. They -- they did everything possible to keep our children safe. Everything, and I wish I had known when I looked at their faces just to say thank you, because I have my children.


BLITZER: Our chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta is still with me. We're going to talk right now to an expert in childhood trauma, the psychologist, Melissa Brymer. She is the director of terror and disaster programs at UCLA Duke National Center for child traumatic stress.

Dr. Brymer, thanks very much for joining us. What is the most important advice you give parents whose children may have experienced trauma, horrific event like this?

MELISSA BRYMER, PSYCHOLOGIST: The parents are going through just tremendous amounts of stress. And it is important for all of us to give them as much support. They have a lot of demands on them right now in terms of how to talk to their kids right now. How to provide those comforts. And there is great people in Connecticut and all around that know what they're doing that can lend support to them at this time.

GUPTA: And doctor Brymer, it is Sanjay Gupta. You know, one of the things that come up here quite a bit over here is, the children who are in the school, you know, how long will the symptoms and the concerns about PTSD last for them?

BRYMER: We have learned from other types of events. I have worked at Santana high school and some other school shootings, and also after Norway. We know that for some portion of the kids it is going to be a long-term event. And that we need to make sure that we have resources and programs in place in the school and in the community for the next several months, several years to support those that are really needing it. Not everybody will need that level of support. Go ahead.

GUPTA: Is it possible to predict, doctor, you know, are children, you know, are they more resilient than adults? Are they less resilient? How would you characterize it?

BRYMER: There are a lot of kids who are going to absolutely be resilient. But we also have to think not just from the PTSD side of things, these families are mourning. And they're dealing with grief. And we have to make sure that the services we provide address those grief issues. And that sometimes because of their experiences, they might not be able to be grieving or mourning right now. That because of what they saw and what they experienced, the trauma piece of it is getting in the way. So we need to make sure our services are providing both the trauma and the grief support.

BLITZER: I know the conventional, the instinctive image, the instinct is, Dr. Brymer, is for parents not to break down, start showing really deep emotions, start crying in front of the kids, because the kids will start to get scared. Is that smart, though? Should the parents try to avoid that?

BRYMER: There is no way that parents are going to avoid what their feelings are. And they are going to express just how awful and how tragic this has been. But it is also important that parents get support from other adults in their lives whether it is clergy or other loved ones that can support them in a much more way that they can't get from their children.

GUPTA: What about age? And maybe there is not a great answer to this, doctor. But these children are so young. I mean, is there a way to -- is there a specific thing that you should avoid when talking to them, or specific things that they should absolutely be hearing now in these couple of days?

BRYMER: I think it is very important that we're honest with them. As you talked about earlier, we have to talk based on their age level and so we have to be very, very concrete and keep our answers short. And they're going to have to sometimes -- we have to revisit these conversations. But it is important to answer their questions honestly and provide them comfort. We know that a lot of it is terms of safety, and how do we help them. Think about those concerns of safety. And younger kids bring it to home. So they're going to ask questions, am I safe at home right now? Are you safe? And we can provide those types of reassurances to them.

BLITZER: And very quickly, Dr. Brymer, should the kids get back to their routines in dealing with this? In other words, should they go back to school on Monday?

BRYMER: I think it is important to get those kids back to school. They may not be doing those types of things at school. They may not be ready to learn. But school can be that extra level of support for families right now. We can have extra professionals there at schools, teachers can monitor. Other people can monitor how these kids are doing, answer questions and provide a support. So we have found that returning back to a routine can be very helpful to their recovery.

BLITZER: Dr. Melissa Brymer, thanks very much for that expertise. We really appreciate it.

BRYMER: Thank you. And I hope you guys are taking care of yourself during this time.

BLITZER: Well, it is not easy, I got to tell you, Sanjay, this is a tough assignment. You and I have covered wars and we cover a lot of assignments. This is one of the most difficult.

GUPTA: I think that watching the parents, that was hard, Wolf. I tell you, I mean, you and I are both dads. And I think that is the hardest thing I have seen, probably. And I'll just follow up on something you asked me about earlier. You know, columbine, you remember it was in April that year. And the school did not open again until August after the summer break.

So, you know, it is going to be tough to think how they will decide that here. But -- and I don't know if there is an exact answer in terms of when they should go back to school. You have asked, but, we'll see.

BLITZER: Ten years ago, you and I were in Kuwait City and studs started coming in. We thought there was poison gas. We thought that was a hard story with hindsight, this is much more difficult.

GUPTA: Yes, I think because of these parents and children, I guess everyone watching right now probably thinks that what if that were my child? And you know, I keep seeing it in my own children's faces, I am sure you do as well.

BLITZER: For one family, the terror of those first few moments after the shooting was multiplied. Multiplied, they have two children in the school. Kate is going to back. She talks to the parents.

Plus, new details about the ailing secretary state. So what caused Hillary Clinton to faint, fall down and suffer a concussion?


HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: Thank you, thank you for --



BLITZER: Just a little a while ago, I spoke with two influential spiritual leaders here in Newtown, Connecticut. They are helping this devastated community, cope with this horrific loss,


BLITZER: We are here with Rabbi Shaul Praver. He is the rabbi at congregation Adath Israel here in Newtown. Also, Reverend Matthew Crebbin of the Newtown congregational church.

RABBI SHAUL PRAVER, CONGREGATION ADATH ISRAEL: And both of you, Rabbi and Reverend, you both been spending a lot of time with the family members. How is that going?

It is really tough in Newtown. And it is the worst tragedy that I have seen in my life. And it is very hard to console a parent who just discovered their children were among the victims.

BLITZER: And Reverend, you have met with parents who have lost kids?

REV. MATTHEW CREBBIN, NEWTOWN CONGREGATIONAL CHURCH: Yes, we were both Shaul and I were there yesterday in the firehouse with the families during that whole process. And it was just indescribable in terms of the grief and the waiting and trying to be present to them, and also to many of the folks that were working with emergency services, and police, and others who themselves, you know, who were feeling just to the lost and sorrow of the magnitude that was happening.

BLITZER: Rabbi, is there one moment yesterday when you were the firehouse with these families that stands out that you'll never forget in your life?

PRAVER: Yes, there's some very unshakable images and that's when the news came from the governor, that the children did not make it and the wailing of the parents and sort of the groping and trying to reach for something intangible. It was horrific, terrible scene.

BLITZER: You were there, too?

CREBBIN: I was there, too it was from my perspective, holy ground. And as people have talked to me and asked me about it, I typically tell people, it was holy ground and I honor the holiness of that place and space and the people that were there as best I'm able. It's something you never want to have to be in a room like that ever again. But in the tragedy, there is a sense of the holiness of it, unmitigated loss and tragedy and honoring that and honoring those families in their grief.

PRAVER: We need to have a culture of peace and that so many of the young games that we have as children, very young ages is about war and killing and that we can make -- we're an intelligent country, we can make wonderful games that have to do with peacemaking and diplomacy, it doesn't take any intelligence to pull a trigger and blow somebody's brains out.

BLITZER: So, what are you suggesting? The shooter in this particular case grew up in a culture of violence?

PRAVER: Yes, that our entire civilization is too inundated with culture of violence, that there can be an incentive and a fun game that has to do with learning about other people in the world and dealing with grievances through active diplomacy.

BLITZER: So many people have said to me, Reverend, and Rabbi, how can God allow something like this to happen. What do you say?

CREBBIN: One of the things I first say in this moment is this is not the moment to answer that question, at least not to the families that are in grief. I think there are answers, there are answer from my tradition that speak to suffering and how suffering can be transformative, how as a Christian I understand that there are ways in which we can transform and be transformed in the midst of suffering. But then, to be honest with you, that's not a question that I try to answer today because people don't need to hear what become an over simplistic answer to something so deep and profound.

BLITZER: What will be the central message that you tell your congregation tomorrow morning in.

CREBBIN: I will be preaching a message that even in the midst of darkness there is light. It's tragic that we are in the midst of a season for us as Christians, which is Christmastime and advent and it's a holy time for us.

But, we also know that in the midst of a season that so often we associate with joy and merriment, that it's also a season of darkness and, in fact, the gospel of John tells us light shines in the darkness and the darkness does not overcome it.

So, I'll be preaching a message that promises in the midst of the dark times that we know the light of God is with us and that we can be sustained in that and we can see that light in each other and draw from that light that is a part of our faith.

PRAVER: The most important thing that we can do as I reaction to this is thrive. I set my banquet in the presence of the enemies. The enemy is the horrible event and the banquet is continuing our thriving in life. I lived in Israel for ten years and saw the way the Israelis would pick up and go to the spot where something terrible happened and the message was we carry on. We will carry on. We have great schools in Newtown. This was an isolated incident. This event doesn't define us. We will continue to have great schools. And be the gate community. Matthew and I are great friends and all of the clergy are great friends, and we will recover.

BLITZER: Rabbi, Reverend, thanks so much.

CREBBIN: Thank you.


BLITZER: We're going to have much more on the horrific aftermath of the killing, the mass killing here in Newtown, Connecticut, yesterday.

But there's another major story developing today. I want to update our viewers in the United States and around the world. News that the secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, sustained a concussion after fainting. Our foreign affairs reporter Elise Labott is joining us now with the latest information we're getting.

So Elise, update our viewers what do we he know?

ELISE LABOTT, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, over the week, secretary of state Clinton got a stomach virus, as you know that put her out for the whole week. She caught that on a trip to Europe. And she had to cancel her trip to the Middle East this week where she was expected to attend a big meeting on Syria.

Now, we hear the secretary suffered a lot of dehydration. She fainted and we're told, her doctors say, over the course of the week they realized that when she fainted she suffered a concussion.

Let me read you a statement from her spokesman, deputy assistant secretary, Philippe Reines.

While suffering from a stomach virus secretary Clinton became dehydrated and fainted sustaining a concussion. She's been recovering at home and will continue to be monitored regularly by her doctors. At their recommendation, she will continue to work from home next week, staying in contact with department and other officials.

Wolf, I'm told this concussion was not severe and that secretary does intend to come back to work after some recuperation and her doctor said in a statement she will make a full recovery.

BLITZER: I'm sure she will make a full recovery. We're hoping for that, of course.

Elise, thanks very much.

Let's bring back chief medical correspondent, Sanjay Gupta, himself, a Neuron surgeon. The statement from the doctors is pretty interesting. It goes beyond what the official state department statement said.

GUPTA: That's right. People have maybe seen this but it says over the course of the week they evaluated her and ultimately determined that she sustained a concussion. What this means, obviously, this didn't happen today. This -- she had a fainting episode, hit her head, that happened earlier in the week and doctors examining her and determining she had a concussion after that. They're also saying no strenuous activity. Oftentimes they add to that, Wolf, which you may find interesting this idea that you don't want to -- you almost want to give the brain rest as well. Doctors will literally say don't read anything, don't watch television, don't get on a computer. You really want to put the brain to rest for a while to allow the brain to recover from a concussion.

BLITZER: Because at the same time from the state department, her spokesman, basically said she's working from home. The doctors are saying they strongly advise her to cancel all work events for the coming week.

GUPTA: That's right. So you know, this is probably some of the friction sometimes wean doctors and what patients really want to do. I imagine it's going to be hard to get her not to do anything at all. But, the best way to get recovery, full recovery, from a concussion is to really not do anything. And this is, you know, this is more than anecdotal. This is something that, you know, we now know. I've done a lot of reporting, as you know, on concussions, this is very important. Obviously, she's secretary of state but this is very important for her to recover as well she's can.

BLITZER: Ad she was supposed to appear before the house and Senate this week on December 20th on the Benghazi killing of the four Americans including the U.S. ambassador, state department report about to released on what exact hi happened. She obviously can't do that.

GUPTA: I think the doctors would say, you know --

BLITZER: They've announced she can't appear pa appear. She's sending two deputies.

GUPTA: That's the opposite of the brain rest, probably. And that is very evolve thinks and strenuous obviously those physically and mentally. So, you know, recovering from a concussion would not, you know, that would not be on the agenda.

BLITZER: So, let's assume it's a mild concussion. Because she's at home. She is not in the hospital. They determined she had a concussion. Brain rest is very important. But for how long? How long should somebody avoid any mental real strenuous activity?

GUPTA: What you want to do is you basically want to trial somebody. And so, you might -- my guess is what has happened, Wolf, is that she continued to have symptoms after this, maybe headache, maybe some blurriness of vision, it did not clear as quickly as they would have liked. That's when they determined it was in fact, a concussion.

What you want to do is you slowly reintroduce activity, you know, allow someone to start reading, maybe engaging in some exercise, and seeing if any of those symptoms come back. If they come back, then, you're sort of back on rest again. So, it can be back and forth for a little bit. My guess is a week. That's typically with a mild concussion, that's what how they're characterizing it, that's the typical time frame.

And again, being they let her be home, throughout the entire time, I think they obviously would have a low threshold for having her in the hospital in this case, she's not. So I think the antennas is lowered here.

BLITZER: I known her sense 1992, when her husband was elected president. You were a White House fellow. You worked for her. She's not the type that will rest and take it easy as you well know.

GUPTA: I'm sure the doctors are prescribing as brain rest. I'm sure it's the last thing she wants to hear, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes. Well, we of course, you and all of our viewers wish the secretary of state a complete and speedy recovery.

Our special coverage of the disaster here in Connecticut continues right now.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She was the type of person that could light up a room. She always have something kind to say about anybody.


BLITZER: A grieving father on his beautiful 6-year-old daughter, gunned down, gunned down in her own elementary school. This hour, unspeakable pain and unanswered questions in the massacre that has shattered a quiet town and stunned the nation.