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Heroism At Sandy Hook; The NFL Remembers Sandy Hook Victims; 15 Days Until Fiscal Cliff

Aired December 17, 2012 - 05:30   ET



BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And you must know that whatever measure of comfort we can provide, we will provide it. Whatever portion of sadness that we can share with you to ease this heavy load, we will gladly bear it. Newtown, you are not alone.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Newtown, you are not alone.

President Obama offering comfort to this grieving community, as Newtown prepares to begin burying the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.

Welcome back to this special edition of EARLY START. I'm John Berman.


It is a raw and gray morning here in Newtown, Connecticut. This close knit community is still reeling, still numb, three days after the senseless slaughter that took place at the Sandy Hook Elementary School on Friday.

BERMAN: We have the latest for you right now. President Obama, as you saw, paid a visit last night. First, he comforted family members in private, then, publicly assuring them, you are not alone. He promised to use all the powers he has as president to stop these kinds of tragedies.

SAMBOLIN: Today, Newtown begins burying its dead, starting with two 6-year-old boys. Jack pinto, who loved his New York Giants, and Noah Pozner. He's the youngest victim who was shot 11 times. Police trying to piece together the puzzle here. How the shooter got into the school and why Sandy Hook may have been his target?

And the brokenhearted family of principal, Dawn Hochsprung speaking exclusively to CNN about her final moments, the power of her love and her legacy.

BERMAN: That's a lovely, lovely story.

But first, we're going to go to Sandra Endo who is outside a church here in Newtown, Connecticut. And Sandra, as you've been seeing here, this close-knit community is coming together to start to say goodbye. SANDRA ENDO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, John and Zoraida. Very heavy hearts, indeed, in this entire community. And last night, President Obama came here to address the residents in Newtown to talk about how he is vowing to make sure tragedies like this don't happen again.


OBAMA: In the coming weeks, I'll use whatever power this office holds to engage my fellow citizens from law enforcement, to mental health professionals, to parents, and educators, in an effort aimed at preventing more tragedies like this.


ENDO: The president also met with victims' family members at a vigil to remember the lives lost in Friday's tragedy. He expressed condolences from an entire nation.


OBAMA: I come to offer the love and prayers of the nation. I am very mindful that mere words cannot match the depths of your sorrow nor can they heal your wounded hearts. I can only hope it helps for you to know that you're not alone in your grief.


ENDO: Definitely not alone. Today, the first of many funerals being laid to rest this afternoon, six-year-old Noah Pozner. He has a twin sister who family members say still does not know the exact way her brother died. Also being buried today, six-year-old Jack Pinto. He was a huge sports fan and idolized New York Giants receiver, Victor Cruz. Cruz, over the weekend, paid tribute to Jack Pinto, writing on one of his cleats, rest in peace, Jack Pinto.

BERMAN: There were so many tributes, Sandra, yesterday, and they'll continue to be so many more. Look at that. Hard to see. There are a lot of other kids here, Sandra, in this community, who want to know what's next for them. When will they be returning to school and what do we know about what's going to happen with the Sandy Hook Elementary School?

ENDO: It's a delicate balance John and Zoraida, because administrators certainly want to return to a sense of normalcy for a lot of these kids, but at the same time, this is such a tragic event. And schools all throughout this community will remain closed today so that the staff can talk to experts to figure out how to deal with this tragedy and how to talk to students once they do return.

All classes will resume tomorrow, except for Sandy Hook Elementary. They are working something out with a neighboring town in terms of culminating all the students from Sandy Hook -- John and Zoraida.

BERMAN: All right. Sandra Endo here in Newtown, thanks very much. SAMBOLIN: Connecticut state police have not yet revealed a possible motive for the shootings, but as their investigation continues, we're starting to learn a bit more. The gunman has been positively identified and we now know he shot his way into the school and was not buzzed in. Alison Kosik has the latest on the investigation. She is in Newtown. Good morning to you, Alison.

ALISON KOSIK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Zoraida. And what -- you know, sort of linking onto what you said, how he got into the elementary school. What sources are telling us is that he literally blasted his way in, that he shot his way, basically creating an entrance to get inside the school. Despite the fact that, yes, the doors were locked as of 9:30, that you had to be buzzed in to get into the school.

And authorities are saying, once inside the school, he focused his shooting on two classrooms and in the hallway. And police say they found three weapons on him inside the school, that he fired dozens of bullets using a semi-automatic rifle on his victims, using a handgun to kill himself.


LT. PAUL VANCE, CONNECTICUT STATE POLICE: The weapon that was utilized most of the time during this horrific was identified as a bushmaster AR-15 assault type weapon. They had high capacity magazines, and in addition to that, the subject had in his position a Glock 10 mm, six-hour 9 mm, all weapons had multiple magazines and additional ammunition.

The fourth weapon recovered was a shotgun. It was recovered from the suspect's vehicle that was parked outside of the school.


KOSIK: And he talks about ammunition that he still had with him, he's talking about he had hundreds of bullets with him that were not used. As for the motive, investigators say they've got a lot of work ahead of them. They've got an immense amount of witnesses to talk with, including children -- Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: I know. And listen, I was watching the press conference yesterday, and they said that they're being very thorough and exhaustive in their investigation here. Do we know anything about the gunman's activities leading up to the shooting?

KOSIK: And that's what authorities are really looking into. They want to know what this gunman was up to in the days and the weeks and the months leading up to the shooting. In fact, at this point, investigators already have proof that the gunman was at least one gun range, though, they're not telling us when or where.

They also say his mother was also at multiple gun ranges. They're not giving a timeline for that, either. Federal agents continue chasing leads, though. They are, you know, looking at as many as 30 gun ranges, 400 gun dealers in the surrounding area, trying to understand what the activities were of this gunman leading up to this massacre -- Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: Alison Kosik reporting live for us. And John, yesterday, when I was watching, he had also said that they are going to trace that gun. They will know exactly when it was sold, where it was sold, and how was this traveled. (INAUDIBLE) simply going through.

BERMAN: They're working every minute of everyday right now. They still have a lot more to figure out.

You know, it's really been true that gun control has not been on the national radar for many years now. It was not for the (ph) presidential campaign, but now, the debate is raging again. For stricter gun laws, there are so many weapons in this country, and people are saying enough is enough. Of course, opponents say of gun control say if that people in the school had had guns, they would have been able to defend themselves. David Axelrod, the man who ran President Obama's re-election campaign --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: More than three people in recent history has been in a place where guns were prohibited. And it happens again and again. There was another shooting yesterday. Three people killed, I think, in a hospital. We kill people in schools. We kill them in hospitals.

We kill them in religious organizations. We kill them when they're young. We kill them when they're old. And we just got to stop this.


BERMAN: David Axelrod, the man who helped run President Obama's re- election campaign tweeted this yesterday. Check this out. He said, "In NFL postgame, an ad for shoot 'em up video games. All for curbing weapons of war but shouldn't we also quit marketing murder as a game?" That raised a lot of eyebrows after the football game last night from David Axelrod.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, there's a lot of dialogue that's happening around this. And you know, I'm hopeful, as I'm sure you are, it's going to be thoughtful dialogue. And at the end of the day, that there will be some change. It's sad to think that this would have spurned it, but at the end of the day, hopefully, there will be some change.

BERMAN: Action is the question here. There has been an enormous amount of talk. The discussion has been raging all weekend. It will continue this week, but the question is, will there or when will there be action?

SAMBOLIN: I hope so.

The Newtown tragedy was felt across the NFL on Sunday. New York Giants wide receiver, Victor Cruz, honored one of the victims, six- year-old Jack Pinto. Take a look at this, writing Jack Pinto my hero on his cleats, excuse, also Sandy Hook Elementary on his helmet. The boy's father spoke after learning their son -- or spoke to -- I'm sorry, Victor Cruz to the father after learning that the son was a big fan.

And, you know, he actually spent time talking to the parents and to the little brother, as well. And, he said it was his way of being able to give back a little bit because he was just devastated by this. And I think across the country, that's what we see. Everybody is trying to figure out, what can I do? What can I do, because they feel helpless in a tragedy like this.

BERMAN: The New England Patriots wore an insignia on their helmets. The Giants did yesterday. The Jets did everyone really coming together here in morning collectively, not just as a town here as a state but as a country.

SAMBOLIN: Yes. It's great to see. For more information about how you can help those that are affected, go to

BERMAN: On one of America's darkest days, the selfless final act of a teacher will be remembered. We'll have her story, coming up.


SAMBOLIN: Administrators and teachers at Sandy Hook are being hailed for their heroism, for saving the lives of the children before even worrying about themselves. One of those teachers was 27-year-old Victoria Soto. She led her first graders away from the classroom door, only to be shot and killed by the gunman.


SAMBOLIN (voice-over): Vicki Soto's family says the first grade teacher died doing what she loved and spent her final moments protecting the children that meant the world to her.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And there are kids now that will be able to say that they're here today because she sacrificed her life so they could live another day.

SAMBOLIN: Soto is being called a hero for shielding her young students from harm. She hid her first graders in a closet before the gunman entered her classroom, but her mother, Donna Soto, is not surprised by her 27-year-old daughter's actions.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She was truly selfless. She would not hesitate to think to save anyone else before herself and especially children. She loved them more than life. And she would definitely put herself in front of them any day, any day and for any reason. So, it doesn't surprise anybody that knows Vicki that she did this.

SAMBOLIN: Donna Soto says Vicki knew since the age of three that she wanted to be a teacher.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's all she ever wanted to do. And she just loved her kids. She just talked about them all the time with such fondness and caring, and she just adored them.

SAMBOLIN: This weekend, family found comfort at vigils for Vicki, one in her hometown of Stratford.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're just thankful to know that everyone in Stratford has been touched by her life somehow and that just came here to celebrate her life.

SAMBOLIN: Also celebrating her life, President Obama, who spent time with the family, prior to a vigil for victims in Newtown.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He was very caring and very supportive and told us he knew all about Vicki and what she did and what a hero she was. And, he was just very, very kind to us and gave us the time we need with him. And it was -- it was very comforting.


SAMBOLIN (on-camera): Victoria was one of six adults, all women, killed inside Sandy Hook Elementary School. Twenty children and six adults in all were gunned down at The Sandy Hook Elementary School. We want to honor all of the victims.

Like six-year-old Charlotte Bacon. Charlotte begged her mom to let her wear a new pink dress and boots to school, a holiday outfit. Her big brother was also at school but made it to safety. Seven-year-old Daniel Barden, a budding athlete. He swam, he played soccer. His family called him fearless.

Olivia Engel was just six years old. She played tennis and soccer with the ballet dancer and a patient big sister to her three-year-old brother. Her family said that she loved school.

BERMAN: Joseph Gay just turned seven last Tuesday. She loved the color purple. Josephine Gay, I should say. Her neighbors are hanging purple balloons from mailbox and fences in her memory. And we remember Ana Marquez-Greene just six years old. Ana grew up with music in her ears, no doubt, in her heart. Her dad plays jazz, saxophone, and flute.

His 2009 album features a song he wrote about her called "Ana Grace." All those faces, all those --

SAMBOLIN: Breaks your heart. Breaks your heart.

BERMAN: You know, I was thinking, you did that lovely piece about the teacher, Victoria Soto. Just 27 years old. Her life was teaching. Her life was education. Like the six women killed at that school, their lives were education and they gave their lives for it.

SAMBOLIN: When you hear their stories of heroism, you know, as parents, you hope that that's exactly what you have in your classroom also, and yet, it breaks your heart because they gave their lives and you never think of teachers having to give their lives for their students. It's just absolutely heartbreaking. Heartbreaking.

BERMAN: President Obama, of course, last night was playing the role of comforter in chief, telling the people of Newtown that they are not alone. We will have more from last night's very emotional and moving vigil, coming up.


BERMAN: Welcome back, everyone, to our special coverage of the shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School. We will have more coming up here from Newton, Connecticut, but first, here's Christine Romans in New York with some of today's other top stories. Hey, Christine.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John. Only 15 days to go until the country goes over the fiscal cliff.


ROMANS (voice-over): House Speaker John Boehner making the latest move in the negotiations. He has agreed to allow tax rates to rise on household incomes of more than a million dollars a year. And Boehner has offered to extend the debt limit for one year as part of a proposed deal.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, will work from home this week as she recovers from a concussion. The State Department said over the weekend that she fainted due to dehydration. It may have been due to a stomach flu that she battled last week. Clinton is being monitored by her doctors.

Blizzard conditions turning deadly in Washington State. Authorities say a tow truck driver was struck and killed on interstate 90 while trying to tow a car in near whiteout conditions. It's the worst storm to hit that state in more than five years.


ROMANS (on-camera): Let's go to meteorologist Rob Marciano. Good morning, Rob.

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Good morning, Christine. Yes, this one is a doozy, and the snows have been piling up. The winds have been battering the coastline along with the waves as well. Columbia River bar traffic of the route that the shippers used to get in to the Columbia River to deliver the goods. That's been pretty much shut down.

More rain and snow on the way here. They're measuring the way of feet, not only across parts of Oregon but across Northern California, as well. Tahoe getting as far as some heavy snow is concerned, but the winds, incredible, especially at the high elevations. Mary's Peak, Oregon, 101, but (INAUDIBLE) that's along the coast of the low lands.

Eighty-four mile-an-hour wind gusts and Lincoln City there at sea level, 81-mile-an-hour wind gusts. The winds are going to push inland today. So, a larger swath of real estate will be enduring these, at times, damaging winds. And the snow also will push inland.

That's good news for areas in Salt Lake City and around the Colorado Rockies where they could use the snow, but the snow are going to create avalanche conditions across the cascades, where they've already seen several feet of snow. Nice across the midsection, but this storm, as you know, if you live in the East Coast, you're dealing with it right now, especially across the northeast.

You go up towards, well, north of Newtown and then towards Bradley and Hartford and through Southern Massachusetts. This is turning into freezing rain in some spots. (INAUDIBLE) reporting that at this hour. Other parts of Northern New England in the form of some snow, but for the most part, New York City through Southern Connecticut, this is cold, damp, and at times, miserable rainfall.

And the thunderstorms are going to roll across parts of the south today as they had last night. Forty-four degrees in Chicago, a chilly, raw 46 degrees in New York City. And, John, up in Connecticut, a few degrees cooler in that as you're enduring right now. Back up to you.

BERMAN: Hey, thanks, Rob. As you mentioned, it is a gray, rainy day here in Newtown, Connecticut. Fitting. Funerals will be held today for two of the children killed in the Sandy Hook school shooting. Last night, President Obama attended an interfaith memorial service in Newton Connecticut in his role as comforter in chief as the shattered community tries to move on from tragedy.


JOHN WOODALL, BA'HAI COMMUNITY LEADER: We ask God to grant those lost a special place in paradise. And we ask their families to be (INAUDIBLE) to endure the unendurable. It is in such times of almost unbearable loss that we seek the comfort with our creator. And that artificial divisions of faith fall away reveal a nation of mothers, and fathers, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters.

GOV. DANNEL MALLOY (D), CONNECTICUT: We will go on. We will find strength. Faith is a gift, as is our ability to support one another in our greater community. To all of you, I extend my most profound condolences on behalf of all of your fellow citizens for what you have seen, what you have witnessed, and what you have personally experienced.

OBAMA: As a community, you've inspired us, Newtown. In the face of indescribable violence, in the face of unconscionable evil, you've looked out for each other, you've cared for one another, and you've loved one another. This is how Newtown will be remembered. And with time and God's grace, that love will see you through.


BERMAN: Just some of the moving words we saw last night here at this vigil. In a short while, we're going to talk to Jason Grays (ph), one of the men you saw there. We'll talk to him later this morning at 7:50 a.m. Eastern Time.

And coming up now, remembering the victims of the Sandy Hook School shooting, and we'll have the latest, of course, on the police investigation. We'll be right back.



SAMBOLIN (voice-over): On this special edition of EARLY START, a community and a nation in mourning.

OBAMA: Newtown, you are not alone.

SAMBOLIN: The president offering words of comfort and inspiration to those trying to make sense of a senseless tragedy.

OBAMA: In the face of indescribable violence, in the face of unconscionable evil, you looked out for each other. And you cared for one another. And you've loved one another.

SAMBOLIN: We're remembering the victims, 20 children and six adults, some who gave their lives to save others.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She was truly selfless. She would not hesitate save anyone else before herself, and especially children.

SAMBOLIN: And as more important details emerge about the worst day, people in the small Connecticut community search for strength to face the difficult days ahead.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We will move on. We will never forget. We will, in many ways, be made stronger for what has transpired. And we will get better.