Return to Transcripts main page


New Details About Newtown Gunman; Report May Provide Clues To Shooter's Motive; House Republicans Draw Up A "Plan B"; NRA Responds To Newtown Shooting; Gun Sales Spike In Wake Of Shooting

Aired December 18, 2012 - 19:00   ET


ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: OUTFRONT next, the latest on the investigation into the Newtown shootings and we have new details tonight on the suspected gunman. What we have been learning from his autopsy, from an autopsy of his brain and from a close friend.

Plus, the hero teacher, Vicky Soto and what she did for her kids.

Later, in the face of horror, citizens around the world have come together to make a difference. Let's go OUTFRONT.

Good evening, everyone. I'm Erin Burnett in Newtown, Connecticut. OUTFRONT searching for answers. That's what we've all been doing, trying to understand how this happened and why it happened.

Investigators in Connecticut returned to the home of the gunman, of the suspected gunman, 20-year-old Adam Lanza, searching for evidence. So far, authorities have been unable to retrieve any information from his computer, which was found smashed to pieces in the house he lived in with his mother, Nancy.

Now, investigators have been trying to piece together an explanation for the crucial why, why did he do this, why did he shoot and kill his mother, why did he go to school -- a school that he had no link to and shoot 20 innocent children and six adults.

The community is just starting to try to begin to heal. Most students began going back to school, trying to go back into a routine today. They went back to school. Police were standing guard outside the schools here.

But the district superintendent said today that students and teachers from Sandy Hook Elementary will not actually be going back to school until January, after winter break.

There were also funerals today for two more 6 year olds, Jessica Rekos and James Mattioli. We'll have more on those memorials later on in our show. But first, we wanted to bring you the very latest that we know about the investigation.

Our national correspondent Susan Candiotti has new details. She is outside the Lanza home tonight. Susan, what can you tell us, you know, the very latest that you have been able to figure out about why this happened? SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I'll tell you, Erin, if the shooter in this case was trying to erase his digital footprint, he may have succeeded. Because investigators are telling us that that smashed computer that you referred to was so badly damaged, presumably by the shooter himself, that they are having a hard time retrieving data from the hard drive.

But they're not giving up. They're still working on it because they want to try to examine it for any e-mails he might have sent, for any writings he left behind, to learn about any websites that he might have visited.

And also, today, we are learning the new gruesome details from the autopsy of Nancy Lanza, his mother. We're here in front of the house that she shared with her son and they are saying that she was shot four times in the head while she was sleeping in her bedroom, shot by her own son before he went on to that school to kill 26 children and adults.

He died of a single shot. We also learned from the medical examiner that he said he was told that the shooter was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome. He says he is going to look into that more. Regardless, he says, that is not, that is not an explanation for the violence that happened here.

And he is also waiting for the results of toxicology tests. Those of course will tell us what kind of drugs or chemicals he might have had in his system, but it might take a couple weeks to learn those results.

Now, Erin, among those people who are stumped about what happened is a former schoolmate of the shooter in this case and he, too, is trying to make sense of the senseless.


CANDIOTTI (voice-over): Alan Diaz may have been as close as anyone could come to being a friend of Adam Lanza when he was a sophomore in Newton High School and Diaz was a freshman in 2008.

ALAN DIAZ, GUNMAN'S FORMER SCHOOLMATE: He was a very intelligent person. He really was. The way he acted around other people was just very withdrawn and really quiet.

CANDIOTTI (on camera): A little different.

DIAZ: Yes.

CANDIOTTI (voice-over): They were in the high school tech club together and spent a lot of time on computers. Adam had his own style of dressing.

DIAZ: He kind of had like the stereotypical nerd look like, you know, khaki pants, belt, tucked in shirt. He even had a little computer case instead of a backpack like everyone else. He even had a pocket protector that he had pens in. CANDIOTTI: He doesn't know whether Lanza was bullied. He kept to himself.

DIAZ: We all kind of new that like, you know, he had problems socially. And we kind of had a feeling that there might have been something wrong with him, but obviously we never asked. We never thought it was our place to do so.

CANDIOTTI: Back then his schoolmates' mom once invited all his friends to the house to play video games. One was "Star Craft," kind of a war games in space. Another was "War Craft 3" where as the ad says survival is a matter of strategy.

DIAZ: "War Craft 3" was really fun. So he was really into games. As I recall he picked up on "Star Craft" really quickly.

CANDIOTTI: When Lanza left high school and was home schooled, Diaz lost touch. But he ran into Lanza's mother, Nancy, about two years ago.

DIAZ: I remember her like mentioning that he started going to the shooting range with her. My initial response to that was I never really imagined Adam wanted to ever hold a gun.

CANDIOTTI (on camera): Why do you say that?

DIAZ: I don't know. Maybe because like in my mind I don't imagine shy quiet people going to a shooting range. I never really can make that association.

CANDIOTTI (voice-over): Investigators are tracking how often Lanza had been to gun ranges. They don't yet know how many so far. They have proven he has been to target practice about six months ago and for several years. Mother and son went at least once together.

(on camera): Do you think of him as an evil person because of what he did?

DIAZ: At one point he was a good kid. The events that he did that day may have been evil, but before then he was just another kid.


BURNETT: At one point, he was a good kid. Adam Lanza may have been just another kid to some of his classmates for many years, but he may have been dealing with some very serious issues that they could never have known about.

Now, we now know how he died, but what was going on with Lanza when he was alive? An upcoming toxicology test may provide clues. It will determine, you heard Susan refer to this, but it's going to determine what medications he may have been taking at the time he died, how recently he took them, whether he had recently perhaps suddenly stopped taking something.

It will also determine perhaps whether he should have been formally diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome and whether there was any other condition that Adam Lanza may have suffered from that was not diagnosed or not known.

I want to bring in Dr. Oz. He's been here to Newtown and he's here to help us better understand the mental health issues that Adam Lanza may be suffering from.

Dr. Oz, the more I hear about this, the more the mental health issue comes to the forefront. I know we're going to find out in the toxicology test whether Adam Lanza was on medications.

And I know now that children can get diagnosed with disorders or issues and they automatically get medicated. What do you expect to find and what sort of side effects might you be thinking about when that toxicology report comes in?

DR. MEHMET OZ, HOST, "THE DR. OZ SHOW": Well, it seems like Adam Lanza had fallen off the grid for a few years so I would be surprised if there was a psychiatrist involved in his care that was prescribing medications.

I would have anticipated that person would have stepped forward by now. So we may not find that much in his toxicology studies. Something clearly snapped him, perhaps in that computer that's been erased or these folks having difficulty retrieving data from.

There was some evidence of what would have prompted this. Maybe he was worried about moving out of the area. He obviously was a fellow who, you mentioned Asperger's, I'm not sure that's the diagnosis, but he clearly was an anti-social person just based on the behavior at the last day of his life.

That means that his brain is actually different most likely than most people's brains, that the part of the brain that controls empathy, compassion, that was all gone. It was thinned out.

So his ability to tell right from wrong getting back to your earlier question about evil, would have been distraught and if he was on medications, whatever snapped him would have allowed him to do things that are unconceivable, unimaginable to any of us because he would not have had that normal natural restraint that most of our brains have.

BURNETT: Dr. Oz, let me ask you about that because you've talked -- looked into this, that research into the brains of people who have committed mass and horrific crimes shows that their brains are in fact different. You can look at it and show that it's different, right? How so?

OZ: Well, there's a part of the brain called the prefrontal cortex. That's basically the area behind your forehead and that part of your brain gets thinned out. We don't quite know why. It might be because it was not stimulated.

But more likely there were genetic issues that led to it not developing normally so these kids are awkward. Some of them may have Asperger's and autism. Those are different issues because Asperger's and autism, these kids still have compassion.

They have feelings. They feel hurt when things don't go right. They don't want to hurt you. But in the case of these anti-social behaviors that many psychopaths who have had autopsies reflected, there is a structural change in the brain.

This is a big challenge for us, Erin, because think about this. That Bushmaster rifle that Adam Lanza used, there have been three million of those sold, which means there are three million guns out there where family members may have access taking that gun and doing a similar type of event.

What worries me the most is the next Adam Lanza may be out there. Whether there's copycatting or just a psychopathic desire to hurt folks, we have to as a nation start thinking more seriously about this.

We need a homeland security approach to mental health in this nation because right now, we are not giving these parents, the Nancy Lanzas of the world, many options.

BURNETT: That's a stunning number, three million of those out there. We don't even know. You know, Dr. Oz, Adam Lanza's mother reportedly tried really hard to help him fit in with the mainstream. She tried that for years. He had a school psychologist at least at one point.

I wanted to play you just something that I spoke to a woman who actually wrote a blog and her blog was entitled "I am Adam Lanza's mother," and she was talking about her own son who has mental health issues.

She has had to basically charge him with battery, her husband did, in order to get him put into a mental health institution. I wanted to play you what she had to say and get your response. Here is Liza Long.


LIZA LONG, BLOGGER, "THE ANARCHIST SOCCER MOM": The advice that I got was that I need to press charges so that we could create a paper trail again and he did get excellent follow-through care when he had to do juvenile detention as a younger boy. But I just don't feel like jail is the right place for my son. I'm just really hoping that we can find another solution for him.


BURNETT: Dr. Oz, what should someone like Liza Long do with a son that she loves? She says 97 percent of the time he's normal, but the other 3 percent of the time he's threatened her and her family and her other children with knives. Yet there doesn't seem to be anything in this country to help.

OZ: I read that posting on Sunday and Liza Long is very nicely articulating the challenge all of these parents face. Her 13-year-old son is most of the time a loving, adoring kid who she thinks has potential, she thinks she can help him.

But unfortunately, 3 percent of the time he's acting out, he's violent just like Adam Lanza appeared to be violent certainly at the end of his life. So she's absolutely correct in calling us all out on the reality. The only way she can get help is to file police charges.

You know how hard that is for a mom to file charges against a child when she knows it's going to result in him being forcefully committed and probably throwing away the towel on that child. It's almost impossible.

Yet because we have rules appropriately crafted to protect people from being -- taken care of in terms of mental illness in an appropriate way, we pushed that pendulum so far to one side.

We don't have the ability to force people to get help when they desperately need it. We have to revisit that issue as much as any other challenge we're going to have coming to grips with this crisis that happened in Newtown.

BURNETT: Dr. Oz, thank you so much for your time and perspective. We really appreciate it. We need it now.

Still ahead on OUTFRONT, we have much more from Newtown here today. We went and have the untold story of another teacher from the man who loved her. We will meet with a family, their first day back to school. Why they moved here to Newtown in the first place.

Plus, why gun sales are soaring, soaring after the tragedy that happened just a few days ago here.

In other news, the verge of a deal in the fiscal cliff negotiations, crucial for this country. What does it mean?


BURNETT: More of our reporting from here in Newtown ahead. A dad joins us and a family. But first, we go to Washington. House Speaker John Boehner today announced his so-called Plan B, that's what he's calling it, if he and the president don't reach a deal on avoiding the fiscal cliff.

Our Dana Bash takes a look at how that plan adds up and, well, what the president had to say about it.


DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (over-over): House Speaker John Boehner negotiating by phone with the president Monday afternoon. The speaker's office released this photo to show he is trying to cut a broad deal to reduce the deficit and avert the fiscal cliff even though he's also now pursuing what he calls Plan B.

REPRESENTATIVE JOHN BOEHNER (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: Our Plan B would protect American taxpayers who make $1 million or less and have all of their current rates extended. BASH: According to sources in the room, the speaker described this backup plan to House Republicans as a way to try to inoculate the GOP from political blame if fiscal cliff compromise talks fail.

REPRESENTATIVE STEVE LATOURETTE (R), OHIO: His point was we have to face reality and the reality is the president was re-elected, that taxes if we do nothing on every American are going up on January 1st.

BASH: Another goal of this new Plan B tactic, try to force the president to agree that any package to reduce the deficit be equal parts tax increases and spending cuts.

BOEHNER: That at this point would be my version of a balanced approach.

BASH: Part of the Republican strategy is also to call the Democrats' bluff. Just two years ago, high profile Democrats came up with the idea of extending tax cuts for incomes up to $1 million. Now Democrats think they hold the cards and say no way.

SENATOR HARRY REID (D), MAJORITY LEADER: Everyone should understand, Boehner's proposal will not pass the Senate.

BASH: The White House argues the president gave a lot of ground in a proposal leaked to reporters Monday night, making concessions to the GOP position on tax rate increases and spending cuts.

In fact, a Democratic source in the room tells CNN the president's congressional liaison got an earful at a meeting of House Democrats for agreeing to a change that would effectively make Social Security checks smaller.

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president has always said as part of this process when we're talking about the spending cuts side of this that it would require tough choices by both sides, and that is certainly the case if you want to reach an agreement.


BASH: And there were several other areas where the White House says that they gave in to the speaker. First of all, when it comes to those tax rates, the president has campaigned for five years on raising taxes of incomes $250,000 or more.

He bumped that up to $400,000 in income, and also in spending cuts, the White House says that they proposed $1.2 trillion, but the Republicans really quibble with that and that's why they say they are still pushing forward on this Plan B.

And just moments ago, there was a meeting that lasted for more than an hour, trying to figure out if the speaker can even get the votes for that Plan B and the votes are supposed to be on Thursday.

Now I'm going to go over to my colleague, John Avlon, for more on this fiscal cliff deal. JOHN AVLON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Thanks, Dana. Well, as you said, 13 days from the fiscal cliff, Senate Democrats saying that Plan B is DOA. The question is really can President Obama and Speaker Boehner come together.

The good news is they're both tough negotiators and both have been making significant concessions. So the question is what would that look like for most Americans. Well, first of all, the president has said he would make the top rate $400,000 instead of $250,000, significant concession.

And saying he's open to chain indexing of the CPI for Social Security. That is hugely controversial with liberal Democrats who say it's essentially a concession on one of the most prized programs of the Democratic legacy.

The speaker, being open to raise not just revenue but rates, a big concession and taking the debt ceiling limit potentially off the table for two years. Now, the problem is that the activists in both parties are howling at what they see are unacceptable concessions, saying that no deal is better than a bad deal.

That is the challenge for both men in negotiations going forward. Other aspects, the president pushing for some stimulus spending for infrastructure, also extension of unemployment benefits, but the big thing for folks to focus on isn't just the short-term patch.

But the potential for a big deal now, what we have come so close to having in the recent past. No matter how modest, even it's only $2 trillion it would be historic to see concessions on both sides. It would be a great way to begin the New Year with the debt ceiling not on our backs in February -- Erin.

BURNETT: John, thank you very much. Up next, four days after the Newtown tragedy, the NRA has finally broken its silence. It was a total blackout, nothing on Twitter, nothing on their web page. They broke it today.

And the story of Vicky Soto. Her final moments of heroism from a young man who loved her.


BURNETT: Tonight, we're hearing from the National Rifle Association. There has been complete silence from the NRA. This is the first time we've heard from them since Friday.

The statement from the NRA reads in part, I'll quote you this part first, out of respect for the families and as a matter of common decency we have given time for mourning, prayer and a full investigation of the facts before commenting.

The NRA is prepared to offer meaningful contributions to help make sure this never happens again. Well, the statement went on to say that the NRA will hold a quote/unquote, "major news conference" on Friday of this week. Meantime, several national retailers are already making changes in light of what happened on Friday. Dick's Sporting Goods has removed all guns from its store in Danbury, Connecticut, all guns. That is its closest outlet to Newtown, where we are tonight.

They've also stopped selling modern sporting rifles at all stores nationwide. On Wal-Mart's web site, you will find plenty of guns, but not the type of Bushmaster rifle that Adam Lanza used. The chain has taken down that web page.

At least 10.8 million new guns were sold across America last year, though. As David Mattingly shows, the shooting here in Newtown has actually just in the past few days, you can already see this, it's stunning, accelerated gun sales. Here is David Mattingly.


DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Almost 1,000 miles away from Newtown, Connecticut, gun owners rush to buy more guns.

(on camera): Why are you in here today?

KEITH FISHER, GUN OWNER: I was looking for a gun that I have wanted for a long time and just wanted to get it before possible changes.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): At this gun shop and firing range north of Atlanta, already brisk holiday sales have suddenly bumped up even more. Customers fearing future gun restrictions from Congress are looking to buy now.

RUDY ORLANDO, GUN OWNER: Me and my brother collect weapons and we have plenty of hand guns and shotguns and only one assault rifle. With all the new talk of new legislation going on to assault rifles, really, you know, I definitely want to get a few more before something may happen.

MATTINGLY (on camera): What's the largest clip you can put in there?

(voice-over): Gun collector Rudy Orlando is specifically looking to buy the AR-15, semi-automatic rifle similar to the one used in Connecticut. And he's not alone. Demand for the weapon here is driving a $1,000 price tag.

ORLANDO: All the prices are really high. I mean, they're really high on these guns right now, you know? And they're not going to budge on the prices because they're going to be sold.

MATTINGLY (on camera): Are you going to buy anyway?

ORLANDO: I probably will.

MATTINGLY: A recent spike in sales reported in stores across the country add emphasis to what is already a record sales year in the U.S. Last year, the FBI conducted a record 16,450,000 background checks. This year, the total so far is over 16,800,000 and that doesn't include the month of December.

(voice-over): Future legislation could affect availability of certain semi-automatic weapons, features on the guns and the magazines that hold large numbers of rounds. Without specifics, Store President Tom Deets says any gun owner could feel vulnerable.

TOM DEETS, PRESIDENT, SHARPSHOOTERS USA: How it would be implemented, would the existing rifles that are in the marketplace be legal or would they go across the board and make everything that people have previously purchased illegal.

MATTINGLY: The uncertainty bothers non-gun owners as well. Brandon Ward is a first time gun buyer, worried about protecting his family.

(on camera): Why now? Why today so soon after the shootings?

BRANDON WARD, ROSWELL, CALIFORNIA: I'm worried the government is going to put so much regulations on being able to do this come future months that it's not going to be an option for me.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): Industry analysts see this as a possible peak to the sales growth that began with the election of President Obama four years ago. U.S. gun sales totaled $2.5 billion in 2008. This year, that figure could top $3.5 billion. David Mattingly, CNN, Roswell, Georgia.


BURNETT: OUTFRONT next, here in Newtown, Teacher Lauren Rousseau. Her boyfriend wants the world to know about the woman he loves and can life ever return to normal? Some of our guests tried today and you will hear their story.


BURNETT: Welcome back to the second half of OUTFRONT. We are in Newtown, Connecticut.

I want to share some of the other top stories of the day with you.

We begin with Paula Broadwell, the woman who had an affair with the former CIA director, David Petraeus. She will not face federal charges for cyberstalking. Broadwell was under investigation for sending allegedly harassing e-mails to a Tampa socialite who knew Petraeus and his wife. Her lawyer says they're glad the matter was resolved promptly and sources tell CNN that the FBI and the military are still investigating Broadwell's possession, though, of classified material.

We are learning more about Jacob Tyler Roberts. That's the man police say killed two people and then himself at an Oregon mall last week. According to court documents, Roberts' roommate was worried about his behavior. Roberts' behavior was so odd that the roommate actually called the police tip line hours after the shooting and told an investigator he thought Roberts might be responsible. He told the detective that Roberts was acting, quote-unquote, "weird" and had started to sell his belongings.

Well, an update on an OUTFRONT story we have been following, on the mother who, according to her husband, died after being refused an abortion in Ireland. Following her controversial death, Ireland's government says it's now going to make changes to its abortion laws to make them clearer. In a statement, the Irish health ministry said the new legislation should clarify that abortions are permissible when the life of the mother is at risk but not if her health is at risk. It will likely be several months before any new legislation, though, is actually finalized.

It has been 502 days since the United States lost its top credit rating. What are we doing to get it back?

Well, we know we don't want to end up like Greece. The country is still struggling today. S&P actually upgraded Greece's credit rating by six notches.

Lauren Rousseau was 30 years old. She had recently just landed a permanent substitute teacher position at Sandy Hook Elementary. According to her family, she died doing what she loved -- spending time and teaching children.

Her boyfriend was Tony Lusardi and says they had just celebrated their one-year anniversary together. He sat down with our Poppy Harlow and talked about it.

And that must have been hard to talk to him, hard to hear him. What did he say?

POPPY HARLOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I mean, this is a guy who's the same age as me and his girlfriend, the same age as well. And the way that Tony was describing Lauren's obituary was the love of her life. They fell in love, he told me, on their first date at a wine bar. That's when they shared their first kiss.

And, you know, these were just two peas in a pod, the way they described one another. And, you know, he told me, Erin, that he doesn't believe that it's real, that it's permanent, that she's going to come back. He's having a hard time processing that.

And the way he described it to me just really stood out. I want our viewers to hear for themselves what he said to me this afternoon.


TONY LUSARDI III, BOYFRIEND OF SHOOTING VICTIM LAUREN ROUSSEAU: It doesn't seem real. It doesn't seem permanent and finite.

HARLOW: You think you might see her again?

LUSARDI: I'm convinced that I'll see her again. Like I have like a little squish pillow that's like a little pillow for like your head that she had, that smells like her, just smells like her perfumes and stuff.

HARLOW: And it still does?

LUSARDI: You know, when I wake up in the morning, I can smell my girlfriend's perfume and it makes me cry.


BURNETT: It's hard to hear that. He has the pillow and just not being ready to let go. They had already shared Christmas together, he said.

HARLOW: Well, Lauren wrapped some Christmas gifts and Lauren gave those gifts to him. And I asked him, what are you going to do? Are you going to unwrap them?

He said, I can't unwrap them because when I do, that makes it permanent. Then it's all too real.

They both lived with their parents, they were trying to save up enough to get a dog together, to eventually move into an apartment together. I said was this forever for you. And he said, yes, I was hoping that it would possibly be forever.

BURNETT: He met the president.

HARLOW: Right.

BURNETT: What did he tell you about that?

HARLOW: On Sunday night, we know President Obama was here and he visited the family members and also, he hugged -- he hugged Tony. And I said, what was that like for you? He said, well, it meant a lot, it felt like a father's hug, but he wrote on Lauren's Facebook page after that, the president hugged me tonight and I would have given anything for you to have been the one who hugged me. And he said I just had one year, one year with you and I wanted more.

We're going to have a lot more on his story for our viewers coming up in a bit.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Poppy.

Rod Deraney is a long-time Newtown resident. He's the father of four, ages 2 to 12. His life in Newtown was intertwined with many of the victims.

Deraney's 12-year-old daughter knew and loved Vicki Soto, one time -- you know, she was a substitute teacher for Deraney's daughter's class a few years ago and she still remembers her. And Deraney's 10-year-old was friends with Jack Pinto's older brother.

Yesterday, Deraney and his on attended Jack's funeral.


ROD DERANEY, LONGTIME NEWTOWN RESIDENT: Well, obviously all the mourners came in. It was a sad, sad -- something I never had to experience, never actually had to witness that. I'm devastated. I just -- my family offers their heartfelt condolences to the families, Jack's family, all the families of the children and all the families of the staffers and the entire community.

So, it was just -- it's tough. We shouldn't have to go through this.

BURNETT: No. And your son was with you, who is 10.


BURNETT: He was at the funeral.


BURNETT: How did he know Jack?

DERANEY: Well, he knows Ben from class.

BURNETT: Right, they're in the same at the school.

DERANEY: Yes, they're in the same class. Mrs. Brown's class, I believe. But you know, we have other funerals to go to and it's a tough -- going to be a tough week. It's going to be a tough road to haul for the next couple weeks.

Our community's completely devastated. Everybody walking around town is completely numb, bags under their eyes, not knowing what to do. We need national support and we don't want you guys to forget about us as you pull away out of our town.

So, something has to be done and there's -- you know, people standing up ready to do something. We just need to see action.

BURNETT: One of the people who died was Vicki Soto. I know that your daughter, who is now 12 --


BURNETT: -- you know, remembers Vicki. Vicki was a substitute teacher when your daughter was at Sandy Hook.

So, what was it about here that made her so memorable?

DERANEY: My daughter just said how nice she was. My son, you know, knows her from being in school there last year, how nice she was and just how kind, a sweetheart. I mean, she's a beautiful woman, in the prime of her life. The job that she did with the students is echoed throughout the community -- just a memorable person.

And all the teachers are like that. The administrators, Ms. Hochsprung, it's a devastating loss. Somebody like that, a leader like that, is very challenging to replace.

I don't know how they're going to replace -- you know, replace her. BURNETT: You have four children.


BURNETT: And your 10 and 12-year-old obviously are done at Sandy Hook. But you have a 4 and 2-year-old. But your 4-year-old is supposed to go there next year.

DERANEY: Next year, yes.

BURNETT: So, do you want him to go there?

DERANEY: Without hesitation. Without hesitation. They're going as long as the school is going to remain open.

We want it to remain open. Some people may not want it, everybody has their perspective. You know, maybe if it's, you know, bulldozed and rebuilt. We just love Sandy Hook. Sandy Hook is a little nook of Newtown and it's -- we would love for the kids to stay in that school.

BURNETT: So there's no taint to you or stigma or I don't want to do that. You want to embrace it.

DERANEY: No, no. We love this community. We moved here seven years ago from California. You know, to bring our children to a Norman Rockwell community like this.

This is the picturesque -- it's such a beautiful place. We love it here. We're so proud to call Sandy Hook or home. We would like to keep it your home, you know?

BURNETT: And do you think -- when you say you want your children to go to that school, that school that's sitting there now, or that school goes away and there's a new school that's built? How do you feel about that?

DERANEY: I would probably have to say that it would probably be in the best interests of the community to have it rebuilt.


DERANEY: It would be easier for us and it would probably be easier for, you know, the folks that we lost. I think it would mean more if it was rebuilt or something.

It was an old building to begin with, but it was the quality of the education behind those doors that was the factor. So, you know, we're very proud of that school and I would like to see it open but that's up to the administrators and it's up to the community.

BURNETT: All right. Well, I know they've got one 4-year-old ready to go.

DERANEY: Yes, he's ready to go. He's ready to go.

BURNETT: All right. Thanks so much.

DERANEY: No problem. No problem.


BURNETT: You heard Rod talking about Jack Pinto's funeral. And you may recall, we told you about that funeral yesterday. Jack wore Victor Cruz, a player for the New York Giants football team, he wore his jersey.

And we want to tell you, we have a little bit of an update on that. Victor Cruz actually came here to Newtown today and met with the Pinto family. As you can see, he wore Jack's name on his shoe for the game on Sunday. He did come and visit with his family today -- certainly something where that little boy, wherever he is, would have been so excited.

Still OUTFRONT, it was back to school for some residents of Newtown today. Kids have to start to go back to their lives. We will talk to two who went back without their friends for the first time.

And later, a ray of hope right here in the middle of Sandy Hook.


BURNETT: Although classes for the survivors of the Sandy Hook massacre will not start until after the New Year, for Sandy Hook Elementary School, other children in this town went back to school. School was in session today for about 5,000 other students in Newtown, their first day back.

Two of them join me tonight, Austen and Trystan Wagner, who are in eighth and ninth grade, along with their parents, Georgia and Darren.

And thanks to all four of you for coming.


BURNETT: Austen, let me ask you. What was it like to go back to school today in eighth grade?

AUSTEN WAGNER, NEWTOWN M.S. STUDENT: Well, it was very weird because as soon as we got to -- got out of the buses, all of the teachers were out on the sidewalk waving at us, telling us they loved us.

BURNETT: That made you feel better?


BURNETT: What about you?

TRYSTAN WAGNER, NEWTOWN H.S. STUDENT: It felt kind of weird but as well, it kind of felt, you know, like comforting, like things are slowly getting back to normal. Yes. BURNETT: You want that routine back.

You both knew siblings, friends whose siblings died. How has it been to face that, to realize that?

A. WAGNER: Like, I don't want to believe it, but you kind of have to. It really does get to you to think that like your best friend, like, won't have a little brother for the rest of their lives.

BURNETT: It makes you appreciate each other, doesn't it? You're lucky.

T. WAGNER: We are lucky.

BURNETT: Well, obviously, you're talking -- a lot of people are saying where are you from? Your dad's American, your mom's Australian. You just moved here four years ago.

I know, Georgia, you chose this town for two reasons. What were they?

GEORGIA WAGNER, MOTHER OF NEWTOWN STUDENTS: When we knew we were going to come back to America, I was looking for -- most important to me was a safe place to live. And the second most important thing was good schools. And I was very obsessive, trawling the Internet, reading every survey, every statistic, and literally found the town in America that I believed had the lowest crime rate in all of America and the best schools combined together.

And I believed if there was anywhere in America that my children would be safe, it would be here.

BURNETT: Would you do it again?

G. WAGNER: Well, the last three days, that was really the question that's been going through my mind is, did I make the right choice? Should I have kept them in Australia? Because when we first thought of moving, the first thing I thought of was I have seen shots of Columbine and that was why I was so obsessive about --

BURNETT: You thought about that four years ago?


D. WAGNER: She's a pacifist. She's the most loving mother.

G. WAGNER: Because even in Australia, we saw those images and I knew that -- I knew that there was this violence, gun violence was an issue in America, and I thought, well, if we move to America, we're going to find the town that it would never happen. There's got to be one town in America, it will never happen.

And I really believed this was here. At first I had this terrible guilt, I made the wrong choice, we shouldn't have come, we shouldn't have left Australia. But then I thought, why did I pick Newtown, maybe I should have picked New Milford or Bedford? Then I kind of had this awakening that the thing is, if it can happen in Newtown which is literally the least likely town in the whole of America, it can happen anywhere in America. And that was such an epiphany that -- that's the reason things have to change.

BURNETT: In this country.

And, Darren, I know you are self-employed. You work as a photographer.

D. WAGNER: Yes, correct.

BURNETT: I think this is something that a lot of our viewers will probably strike home to tell a lot of people, you take pictures of the dance studio here. You have pictures of some little girls who are not here anymore.

D. WAGNER: I mean, it's been my joy to be here. It's been my joy to capture life, the happiest of moments. I don't want to be contacted for funeral photos. I don't want to be faced with, you know, those kind of requests to have my photos sitting next to caskets or anything like that.

And then, we're going to go beyond that. I'm going to be taking photos of the happy stuff very soon. As the kids said, this was day one.


D. WAGNER: And I've already got plans to start taking happy photos tonight.

BURNETT: And build?

D. WAGNER: And build.

BURNETT: And did you have classes at school today, Austen, or was it different?

A. WAGNER: Yes, it was very, very, very different. We didn't really have any classes. We were just talking about what happened. Our teachers kept on telling us that they never expected this to happen. And all of our teachers at one point in the day did start to cry. And it really got to us, that like they really do care about us a lot.

BURNETT: Was it like that for you, Trystan, did you feel like you could be emotional if you needed to be emotional?

T. WAGNER: Yes, like, we were technically in our math class, but we were -- it was just -- we were with our math teacher. And we were just like talking about what has happened and how we felt.

BURNETT: Well, good luck to both of you and thanks to you, the Wagner family. We really appreciate you're taking the time to be with us tonight. T. WAGNER: Thank you.

D. WAGNER: Thank you.

BURNETT: I want to check in with Anderson with a look at what's coming up in the next hour on "A.C. 360" -- Anderson.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, Erin, we spoke to the McDonnell family, Lynn and Chris McDonnell (ph) who lost their little girl Grace on Friday.

And they actually contacted us the other day and asked us to come by their home and spend time with them and learn about Grace. And they wanted everybody else to know about the remarkable little girl that they have lost. And the little girl who has change third lives forever and that they will always hold in their hearts and will always remember.

I sat down with them. We're going to be playing you a lot that interview tonight because we really think -- we want you to know each and every one of the people whose lives were lost here and what it means to each family and to this community.

Grace was a really talented artist. She was only 7 years old, but she was really a gifted artist. She loved to draw and paint. You'll see some of her artwork. That was an owl that she drew, and they actually gave that to President Obama and some of her other work.

So, we're going to talk to Lynn and we're going to talk to Chris at the top of the show and learn about Grace. She has a 12-year-old brother Jack obviously who we did not interview because that's not appropriate. They want everyone to know about their amazing Grace.

So we're going to fulfill their wish tonight and bring you as much as we can about Grace, and about some of the other children whose lives have been lost here. And bring you up to date on all the other things that have been happening here on this day.

BURNETT: All right. Anderson, thank you very much. And we really do want to hear about her.

For a moment, though, now, we're going to our "Outer Circle" and talk about some of the stories around the world.

We begin in Turkey where NBC's Richard Engel and his crew -- I'm sorry about that we're going to Baghdad where Iraqi President Jalal Talabani is in the hospital after suffering a stroke Monday night. Nic Robertson has the story and I asked him whether there actually is a plan for treating Talabani or not.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erin, well, the health of the president is not good. It's been described as very unwell. Collapsing of what appears to be a stroke in a hospital in Baghdad. According to the prime minister's office, they're considering whether to treat him in Iraq or send him for medical treatment outside the country.

Seventy-nine years old. He has been an important figure because he has helped bridge some of those deep ethnic and sectarian positions in Iraq. He's a Kurd and he's been known to sort of build alliances that have allowed the country in some ways to keep on functioning and not to descend into violence.

He was treated for a health scare in 2007, treated for being overweight and treated for another health issue for this back just this year in Germany. But his health right now, not good. The outlook not particularly good right now, Erin.


BURNETT: Thanks very much to Nic.

And OUTFRONT next, trying to help any way they can, a ray of hope here in Newtown.


BURNETT: Over the past few days, we've seen locals in Newtown rallying behind their community. And today, we met 21-year-old J.R. Shine. He's now a college senior, but he grew up here in Newtown.


BURNETT: So you're away at school. You live away at school.


BURNETT: You came right home?

SHINE: Yes. I took my last final Friday night, and then came right back as soon as I could.


BURNETT: We met J.R. on the main drag in Sandy Hook, where he, along with his childhood friends, were raising money to help. They raised $3,500 on Saturday, $10,000 on Sunday, all in about $20,000 so far.


SHINE: Right now, what we're trying to do is get the money for the families. Help them with any costs they might have right now. You know, it's obviously a great burden, you know, money is going to bring anything back. It's not going to replace anything. But we're hoping it will help somehow.

And as it goes on, we'd like to turn this into a scholarship fund, especially for any brothers or sisters who might have, you know, lost someone in the shooting.

BURNETT: Who lost a sibling? SHINE: Exactly.

BURNETT: To set up a scholarship in the name of the children?

SHINE: Exactly. That's what we want to do, honor their brothers and sisters. You know, their classmates, whoever it might have been.


BURNETT: J.R. set up a nonprofit. He called it Angels of Sandy Hook Elementary. He's a former football player here. He's used to wrangling people together.

And as he told, when he and his -- the friends he's since when he was in elementary school, those kids around him, they've been together since they were very young children. They canceled their plans to meet for a holiday celebration in New York City, and every single one of them came homestead.


SHINE: We've all been such good friends such a long time. We all grew up here. And it's so close-knit, this community. You know, everyone kind of has each other's backs and does whatever it can to help each other out.


BURNETT: We will be leaving Newtown to give this small town its streets back, for the residents here to grieve and share together. But we're not going to stop covering this and talking about it in honor of those who died and to make those in power take action to stop anything like this from happening again.

"Anderson Cooper 360" begins now.