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Newtown Surviving Tragedy

Aired December 18, 2012 - 19:00   ET


JANE VELEZ-MITCHELL, HOST: Jane Velez-Mitchell coming to you live from Newtown, Connecticut. A very rainy night here. Certainly matches the mood.

The governor of Connecticut has just declared Friday a day of mourning and asks everyone to participate in a moment of silence at 9:30 a.m.

Once again tonight, just a couple of blocks from where this terrible, terrible thing happened where 20 innocent precious children were gunned down along with their six female educators. Just incomprehensible. At the hands of this very disturbed young man wielding this assault-style rifle. And I can tell you we`re going to have the very latest on the investigation tonight.

I also have a message to you from the people of Newtown and the village of Sandy Hook. Let me hold it up. Here is the sign. It says, "We are Sandy Hook. We choose love."

Now, somebody printed up a whole bunch of these and handed them out today, and this pretty much expresses the sentiment. "We choose love." A lot of people in this community feel and hope and pray that this terrible, terrible incomprehensible event has created a seismic change in the national culture.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We can`t go back to that school.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You can`t go back.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our teacher -- our teacher is dead.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The look and fear is certainly in everybody`s eyes. That day was probably one we`ll never forget.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How can you laugh at a time like this? When your little heart`s broken. You`ll never see little Johnny or little Kimmy or -- and all the funerals going on. It`s hard.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think the school should be torn down. I think it should be torn down. And a memorial made there for the kids.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our country is long overdue for a serious discussion about guns, about mental health.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Earlier today, I was in the town center where this huge memorial keeps getting bigger and bigger, and something absolutely gut-wrenching occurred. We were standing there, and all of a sudden, one of the funeral processions for one of the littlest victims went right by us. This is the video that we -- we were standing right there. And I have to tell you, it was shattering. It stopped everybody in their tracks, and it really brought home what we have lost.

We have lost these precious lives. The funeral services continued today for two of the youngest victims. Six-year-old James Mattioli, he loved football, spending time with his family. What a beautiful, beautiful boy.

Also 6, Jessica Rekos was laid to rest today. She was obsessed with horses. She loved absolutely everything about horses. Look at those precious eyes. Unbelievable.

You know, I was there at the memorial as this funeral procession went by, talking to some of the folks, and I found myself next to one of the first responders. This is a volunteer firefighter who went up there. He was actually at the firehouse near the school. He didn`t get to the school itself, but he was there as all the commotion occurred at the nearby firehouse. He is sadder -- he almost couldn`t speak to me, he is that devastated. Listen.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: What has it been like for you...


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Have you been able to sleep?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. A little bit.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Just a little bit? I`m sorry. I`m sorry, sir. Thank you for bringing that cross. I`m so sorry.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That`s all I could do for the kids.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: I actually asked him if he had gotten counseling yet, because I was concerned about this poor man. His eyes just completely welled up with tears. He could barely get a sentence out. And he didn`t even go into the school.

Now, there is an attempt to get a sense of normalcy back for kids. Most of the kids in the district went back to school today, but here`s a tragic irony. Their school bus had to go right past all the memorials. So they can`t escape it.

Now, as for the students at Sandy Hook Elementary, they are not going back to school. Their school is still a crime scene. They`re not going to go back until the first of the year, and then they`re going to go to another school in the nearby town of Monroe. They are with their families tonight, and I`m sure their families are holding them very, very close.

For the very latest on the investigation, let`s go straight out to Rita Cosby, who is at the home of the shooter. What is the very latest, Rita, on this investigation?

RITA COSBY, HLN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jane, I spoke exclusively with the medical examiner, who has been overseeing much of the autopsies, specifically in this case. He told me that the autopsies have been completed for the shooter and his mother, who lived both in the house behind me. Of course, he killed his mother, we know, on Friday morning and then he went over to the school, and that`s, of course, where he opened fire.

And what the autopsies are showing is that, when he killed his mother on Friday morning, authorities are saying that what happened was he actually shot her four times in the head while she was in her pajamas asleep in her bed.

And the other part of the autopsy, it shows that he took his own life, and he fired a single bullet to his head there at the school.

Additionally, they are doing toxicology reports. And I`m told, Jane, from investigative sources, that they are focusing on the medical records and the mental state of Adam Lanza, the shooter. And they should get full toxicology reports to determine if he had any medicine, any prescription drugs, any illegal drugs in about a week and a half when those results come back.

Additionally, they also got some computer pieces out of the house. The hard drive was smashed, and they are trying to determine if they can get any information off those hard drives.

I`m also told from investigative sources that, if they can`t get them off the hard drive, they can probably get a whole bunch of information off of servers. They don`t have to physically have the hard drive. They can trace it through some other locations.

Meantime, the Connecticut State Police, they`ve been in and out all day in unmarked cars. And their spokesperson did say that they`re getting some good leads. Take a listen.


LT. PAUL VANCE, CONNECTICUT STATE POLICE: I do not know. I do know that we`ve executed search warrants at the secondary...


COSBY: And also, we`re also told additionally from the medical examiner -- yes, Jane?

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, yes, I`m thinking about that beautiful house behind you, and I see it there. What a lawn. What an affluent neighborhood. And yet, there is a certain lack of common sense, it would appear. The idea that, in that home, there were several guns, including this assault-style weapon. As well as a very troubled young man.

And then you add to that the mother takes this troubled son for target practice. Let`s look at that. Because that is a dangerous, dangerous combo.


VELEZ-MITCHELL (voice-over): A mother and her son and a passion for guns. Did that turn into a dangerous combination?

COSBY: She and also her son have gone to a number of different shooting ranges in this area.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: As we now know, the mother was a gun collector, and on that fateful morning, the shooter took some of his mother`s weapons from the home. After shooting his own mother while she was sleeping, he then went to Sandy Hook Elementary and killed 26 people and himself.

COSBY: Friends of hers told me that she would teach her son about guns, too, that she thought it was sort of a sign of respect and sort of a way for him to build confidence and to get a sense of responsibility.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Tonight the world is asking, why in the world would had a mother who had a son she knew was troubled keep several weapons in the house, including an assault-style semiautomatic rifle, and take her son to shooting ranges? Could this mother unknowingly have trained her son to kill?


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Rita, you are there outside this house. Any idea why this mother would have that dangerous combination, knowing her son is troubled, keeping all these guns and the ammo in the house?

COSBY: I hear this, Jane. In fact, I talked to a lot of friends close to the mother. They told me -- and this is what they said -- that the mother told them the reason that she was showing her son guns is she thought it would help build his self-confidence, teach him to respect guns, teach him to have a sense of responsibility.

And as you point out, what a terrible irony and terrible choice for a boy who even now the medical examiner has told me officially for the first time, we`re hearing, that he was diagnosed with Asperger`s. They`re not sure if that was a correct diagnosis. But either way, they said it wouldn`t lead to violent behavior.

But clearly, he was a troubled child. Why would you have a troubled child and have all these guns and then say, "I`m going to teach him to build self-respect?" A lot of people feel that just does not make sense.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: And it`s got to hurt the people who lost children. To think that this was preventable. That this dangerous combo did not need to occur.

Anderson Cooper spoke to the parents of one of these precious, precious children, Grace McDonnell, who lost her life. Let`s listen to what these parents have to say.


LYNN MCDONNELL, MOTHER OF GRACE: It`s OK to be angry because sure, we have anger, and we`re upset and we don`t know why. But I told Jack that he could never live with hate. Grace didn`t have an ounce of hate in her. And so we have to live through Grace and realize that hate is not -- not how our family is and note how -- certainly not how Grace is. And I know all those beautiful little children, they didn`t have any hate in them either.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: I remember when my own father died, I read this book by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross to try to get an understanding of what I was going through. And she talks about the five stages of grief. Denial, anger, bargaining. And then comes depression and then ultimately acceptance.

I want to go to Paula Bloom, forensic psychologist. What these people are going through tonight is unimaginable. I spoke to a first responder who hadn`t even gotten to the school itself, was at the nearby firehouse. And he was shattered. I cannot imagine -- I cannot imagine what these parents are going through. Describe how they`re going to go through these five stages of grief.

PAULA BLOOM, FORENSIC PSYCHOLOGIST: Right, yes. I`m a mom. I have an 8-year-old and a 10-year-old, so I can`t even fathom that.

Listen, we do have these stages of grief, but let`s be very clear that we don`t go through them in the -- necessarily in a perfect order. Everybody is different.

And just because that first responder you spoke to has had a loss for words, it doesn`t mean that he`s not doing this right. It doesn`t mean he`s having -- he`s doing it wrong. A lot of times we assume that, because somebody is struggling in this grief, that somehow we have to fix it. And that`s one of the things with grieving, is that it`s something that we cannot control. That we have to move through.

You asked the question about what`s going to happen with these parents. You know, it`s the kind of thing where it`s one moment at a time. People often say does the pain get less? And in my experience working with individuals who are grieving, the pain doesn`t necessarily -- it doesn`t go away, but what happens is you develop more and more this ability to kind of put that pain in a container, to kind of put something around it so that there is room eventually for joy and for other things to come in. But right now in these moments...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: And Paula, I think -- I think one thing that would really help these parents is if this tragedy resulted in change.

BLOOM: Absolutely.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: That would mean that their precious children will not have died in vain, and that`s why we`re starting a campaign right here on our show, #demandchange. We`re going to tell you about it in a little while. But you can be part of the solution. #demandchange. Let`s all get involved. Together we can change our culture. More on the other side.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Stop the guns. Get them off the streets. Protect your kids. Love them. Do something. It`s sad.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Maybe this will change things?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I hope. You know? It`s sad when you have to bring your kids to school and this all happens. Never was like that when I was just -- when I was a kid going to school. Never.




VELEZ-MITCHELL: And it appears that we`re seeing the funeral processions come through this town. Take a look at what we`re seeing right now as a police escort brings a motorcade, a motorcade carrying one of the victims, and they are passing through the center of town in that vehicle, a precious victim.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. Well, so many people want to weigh in on this tragedy. Let`s go out to the phone lines. Nicole in Nevada, your question or thought, Nicole, Nevada.

CALLER: Yes, hi, good evening.


CALLER: Yes, Jane?

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Hi. Good evening.

CALLER: Good evening.


CALLER: As a nation, we have dropped the ball. I can`t wrap my head around the fact that 20 babies, babies are gone. Are gone. They`ll never see tomorrow. Or the day after. And I`m hurt. NRA needs to stand up and talk, say something. But don`t say nothing.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, the NRA -- I`ll tell you this. NRA has released a statement, and I can read it to you. Because they had been very quiet for the first couple of days.

But the NRA has said tonight, quote, "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 make sure this never happens again."

And I want to go to Dan Primack, senior editor of "Fortune" magazine. Because when I heard that, obviously, the NRA is one of the huge forces that keeps the assault ban from being renewed. It expired in 2004, and there hasn`t been the political will to renew the assault weapons ban.

But now I`m hearing the NRA saying they`re prepared to offer meaningful contributions to make sure this never happens again. Can you translate as a person in business, what does that mean?

DAN PRIMACK, SENIOR EDITOR, "FORTUNE MAGAZINE": I can`t speak for the NRA. It`s certainly not my forte.

I mean, what I can say is that from the business side, on the private industry side, the company that owns Bushmaster, which made the rifle that was used at Sandy Hook Elementary, they decided this morning, or announced this morning that they`re going to sell the company. They`re going to hire a bank to try to sell it as soon as they possibly can.

A decision, which is not being made for investment reasons or fiduciary reasons. It`s being made for -- you want to argue moral reasons or PR reasons, et cetera, but they`re deciding to try to sell the company. Clearly not an optimal time to try to sell one.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, you know what I think? And we`re going to talk a little bit about this in a second. But I think you don`t sell the company. You dismantle the company.

Dan, if you really want to change something and you feel that you`ve been engaged in something that is morally reprehensible, you don`t sell that company. You dismantle it. You tell the factory workers you`re going to have to make something else aside from assault weapons. We`re going to close this factory down. We`re not going to sell it to somebody so other company can make money off of it.

PRIMACK: It`s not necessarily quite that easy, though. You`re talk about private equity firm that has fiduciary responsibilities to lots of investors. From a legal perspective, if you do that, they open themselves up to a huge amount of litigation.

And you have investors who, even if they are not pleased with this investment, expect some sort of return on that investment. So what the private equity firm can do, all it could really do was sell it.

I would add they could make a decision, at least temporarily suspend making certain types of semiautomatic weapons, at least for the commercial market, as opposed to the legal and military markets, which they also make for, but that`s not a decision they`ve chosen to make so far.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes. And speaking of those kinds of decisions, I can tell you that the Westchester County officials in Westchester County, New York, have pulled the plug on the Westchester annual gun show, which was scheduled for this coming February. Officials say they have decided not to renew that contract. That is a very interesting change.

As well as Dick`s Sporting Goods store, one of the largest sporting goods stores in the world, has removed all guns from its store nearest to Newtown. Just the one nearest to Newtown.

And there`s also -- they`ve also announced they`re suspending the sale of certain kinds of semiautomatic rifles. Not stopping them nationwide. But suspending them nationwide. Why not stopping them nationwide?

More on the other side.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This world is on the wrong track. We`ve got to -- we`ve got to help each other. We`ve got to love each other. That`s it.




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It just doesn`t seem like Christmas, you know? It`s really, really hard.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: How has it changed your holiday as a member of this community?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just can`t seem to get into the spirit. I don`t want to go shopping. We went to see the festival of lights the other night, and I almost felt guilty enjoying it.



Back here live in Newtown, Connecticut. And I am very honored to be with Dr. Jean Dosacrada (ph), a psychologist nurse. And she has been counseling some of the grieving families involved. And I want to thank her for coming out tonight on this very rainy night to talk about some important issues.

What do you feel in the community? When I was out there today, I felt shock, I felt profound sadness. And of course, there`s many stage of grief, but one of them is anger. What are you seeing and feeling?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, I`ve been hearing from people all over the country. And particularly in the Newtown, Sandy Hook area. And I really feel that the way people are presenting themselves, it`s a really unique opportunity for us to not do business as usual. For us to let go of our own agendas and to look at what the needs of this community are, and the larger needs of the nation, in terms, really, of starting a discussion about mental-health needs. Why was this person not recognized as having a problem until this terrible tragedy?

VELEZ-MITCHELL: And why were there guns in the house?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right. Well, I mean, the issues are closely related. I think the problem is, is that people get so worked up about their own personal agenda that...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: What do you mean by that?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, like the people on other side of the gun control issue. Start arguing that point. People...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: But don`t you think -- I have to say -- and I`m not disagreeing. I`m just having a conversation, and I respect your opinion.

And I`ve felt -- I`ll let in on a secret about TV news: a lot of times, we`re afraid to talk about guns, because it is so polarizing.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: That, if we bring it up, we get inundated with people who are very, very angry.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: And so if you don`t absolutely repeat their opinion, their narrow opinion, you get incredible blowback. Now it seems like the floodgates have opened, and people actually feel free to have a conversation about this for the first time in years.

Remember, the assault weapons ban expired in 2004, and it wasn`t renewed, because people were -- politicians were afraid that they would be targeted.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: And so now...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That`s what it`s become. All about lobbying and re-election. And the needs of the people have gotten lost.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Is there hope in the community that this -- this terrible event that really defied description is the one that will change things?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I get the sense that this is a real window of opportunity, that we need to seize very quickly in order to look at what the needs of the people are. And the very fact that I`m getting so many calls to talk about issues that people traditionally keep secret to themselves, don`t want to talk about...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, tell me. You`re getting calls from people saying, "My child has a problem"?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They`re saying they`re grieving. Yes, my child -- how do I talk to my child? Do I wait for them to come to me? How do I know if they`re having a problem?

I`m talking to people about, you know, meeting kids at their developmental stage. Not overwhelming them. That parents need to remain stoic and get their needs met so that they can meet the needs of their children.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I just want to say I`m so -- so happy that you are in this community to provide solace, comfort and guidance to those people who need it. I was talking to a first responder, and he didn`t even go to the school. He was at the fire station next to the school. He was so shattered. I said to him, "Are you getting counseling?" Because I really felt that he need it. And I hope that you`re able to talk to some of those first responders. And I know that they have people talking to them.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: But thank you. Thank you so much for being here.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Stay there. Maybe -- maybe you can help us through the rest of our show as we continue to try to understand and effect change.

And remember, we`re starting a campaign on this show, #demandchange. So tweet me and tell me how you would like to use this terrible tragedy to effect change in our country. More on the other side.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I feel worried, nervous. But at the same time, I`m feeling happy to be back at school.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A tribute to the schools. I have two kindergartens in school right now. There`s no words you can say for it.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I feel worried, nervous. But at the same time, I`m feeling happy to be back at school.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s a tribute to the schools. I have two kindergartners in school right now. There`s no words you can say for it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The outpouring of love from the community and throughout the world has been unbelievable. But what breaks my heart is something like this has got to happen for people to come together like this. It shouldn`t be that way.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are just inconsolable -- all of us, everyone -- every last person in all of the communities.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: We are not mentioning the name of the shooter who gunned down 20 children and their six educators. We don`t want to focus on him. But we do want to understand the why so we can learn from it.

Straight out to Rita Cosby, who is outside the shooter`s home with the very latest on the investigation -- Rita.

RITA COSBY, INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALIST: Well, Jane, we know that they are getting significant information out of this house. We do know that there was a smashed computer that the hard drive was also pretty significantly smashed, and they believe that was done by Adam Lanza to maybe conceal evidence, what if there`s something else -- maybe was there some argument? They`re trying to piece all that together. But they say that the hard drive was not usable so far. Of course, they have forensic experts from all over the country trying to put it together.

And also they are telling me also that even they can`t physically get the hard drive, they can probably get the information from elsewhere.

In addition, you talked about this diagnosis, and for the first time today, we got an official confirmation that he was -- this is Adam Lanza -- was diagnosed with Asperger`s. This comes from my exclusive conversation with the chief medical officer, Jane, who said that yes, he was diagnosed with that, but he also stressed to me that that may not have been a proper diagnosis. And he said regardless, there is nothing in that kind of diagnosis that would lead to this violent behavior.

And they are trying to focus on the medicine, trying to focus on medical records with him to see if there was anything in his system. And that`s why that autopsy is so critical, particularly the toxicology reports, which I`m told will be back in about a week and a half -- Jane.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: And we`ve got another caller for us -- Marlene in California. Your question or thought? Marlene, California.

MARLENE, CALIFORNIA (via telephone): Hi -- hello.


MARLENE: Hi, Jane.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Hi, Marlene. What`s your question or thought?

MARLENE: Well, this is my thought. I`m a mother of a son who`s been a troubled boy since he was a little boy. He`s 21 years old now. I am very, very angry with Mrs. Lanza. I don`t understand why there wasn`t help that was given to this child when they knew at an early age there was something that was wrong.

This was not a family that had financial problems and couldn`t seek help. This was a family that should have had every single resource pulled out to help this child instead of bringing him to a gun range and instead of trying to build him into a good human being with good character through guns. I am angry. I am very angry.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, I think you`re raising -- you are raising such an excellent point. I want to go to Linda Rosenthal, who is a New York assembly member and somebody who is working now to change our culture of violence. Linda, you and I are friends. We know each other. Obviously we share in common a desire for nonviolence, and that`s why we became friends.

But this astounding news that the mother of this troubled son not only kept guns in the house, including this assault style weapon and ammo, apparently. But also took him to shooting ranges. Is there some sort of twisted notion that sort of to become a man that you have to learn how to kill?

LINDA ROSENTHAL, NEW YORK ASSEMBLY MEMBER: I do believe that that kind of notion is prevalent in society, but I also think that governments, state governments, federal governments actively promote gun use. For example, this state promotes hunting.

Now I know there`s a discussion of whether hunting is actually in the same category, but if you`re putting guns and weapons into hands of children -- people who are 14, 15, 16 years old and encouraging them to go out, to use them, to kill animals, but also to become, you know, men and tough by learning about guns, you are encouraging gun violence in society.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, Dr. Pasacreta, I`m so happy to have you here tonight. You`re a psychologist from the area and you have actually been talking to some of the families that are connected to this. I want to be careful. I want to respect their privacy. But I think that`s the big dilemma.

People can`t understand if you have a son who has troubles, how you then put these guns in his midst with the ammo and then train him, take him to a shooting range so he learns how to shoot.

JEANNIE PASACRETA, PSYCHOLOGIST: I mean, first of all, I think we know very little actually about what the shooter`s psychopathology was. I mean, for example, Asperger`s is not a disorder that`s traditionally associated with violence.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: We want to stress that. There`s millions who have associated symptoms.

PASACRETA: Right. And they`re often very gentle, kind, compassionate people.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Of course, yes, yes.

PASACRETA: So I don`t want people to get the idea of that.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Absolutely not. We want to be very careful about that.

PASACRETA: Right. And, you know often, psychiatric illness is a family affair. So there`s often one person who displays problems, but other people in the family contribute to those dynamics. I`ve heard -- and I don`t know if this is actually true or just hearsay and I want to stress that as well, that these people had guns -- they were gun enthusiasts, that they were also preparing for an economic decline, for some kind of apocalyptic event.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, we don`t know that --

PASACRETA: We don`t know that.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: But what we heard was the aunt of the shooter --


VELEZ-MITCHELL: -- say that she had guns for protection. But also in case things -- there were economic troubles or worse, to that effect. So I don`t know if it was a survivalist thing. But I think a reporter did say is this a survivalist sort of thing and she sort of said yes. But I don`t know if she really understood the import of the question.

PASACRETA: I don`t know about that family, but for society at large that there`s this sense -- and I will say that since the economic decline, or the recession, my practice has doubled, you know, because people are stressed and worried about uncertainty and the future.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, what`s really scary about this -- and I`ll go to Rita Cosby on this -- is that we`re hearing all sorts of reports now of runs on gun sales. So that it`s kind of a vicious cycle. Every time one of these mass shooting occurs, well-meaning family wanting to protect their own family say I`m going to go out and get guns. So the proliferation of guns is actually increasing exponentially as we continue to discuss this.

COSBY: I think just by focusing on it --




COSBY: Yes, you know, you hit an excellent point, because by bringing attention to it -- and also by people seeing what`s happening in schools, there`s been a heightened sense of security. People are saying well, I need to do things to protect my family, protect my home.

And then on the other hand, there`s the other side of the debate as we were talking about extensively about gun control. So it is. It`s one of those senses of people feeling safe, feeling secure. Maybe the middle ground is what we`re all hearing from a lot of security experts -- more security at the school with the right people having guns, with people feeling safe; i.e. law enforcements, i.e. different metal detectors, different things at schools.

Maybe there`s the middle ground so people at least feel comfortable and don`t feel they need to do something to protect themselves. And what they also need to understand in this case, Jane, in this particular case, you know, this is still -- obviously this is a horrible, horrible thing. But it`s not like school shootings happen every -- this is obviously a very rare occurrence, and people need to realize that.

Unfortunately, when it hits and you see 20 children killed, it hits so close to home with any parent, any American.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: We`ve got another caller -- Carol, Indiana. Your question or thought. Carol, Indiana.

CAROL, INDIANA (via telephone): Hi, Jane. Thank you for taking my call. You know --

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Hi. My pleasure.

CAROL: Hello?

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Hello, your question or thought Carol.

CAROL: I volunteer at my grandchildren`s and as the kindergarteners and the little first graders were lined up for lunch, I didn`t realize how small they were. But this was before this incident. And it was -- the tears streamed down my face. But I`m going to tell you something, Jane, these politicians, I don`t care -- these people are wah-wah-wah. To come down to Washington, mothers and these grandparents and I would be one included.

You better get these guns off the streets, put them on the mantle where they belong instead of theirs. And these people that went and bought all these guns, they buy as many as they want. Where are you going to get the bullets? Quit doing this stuff.

President Obama, I voted for you. You give them a swift kick and you get something done about this. We can`t take them to the --


VELEZ-MITCHELL: And let`s face it -- very passionate. I think really a sea change has occurred as people are really expressing views that they may have held privately, but again, what my primary concern is are these semiautomatic weapons of war, these assault weapons with magazines that have 30 rounds per magazine. This is what the shooter used that can kill many, many people in a matter of minutes.

Police believe that virtually all these people, the 26 who died at the school, were killed within two minutes. Now, there are proposals to ban these assault style weapons, that`s going to be introduced first of the year, and also to ban the sale of these magazines with these many, many rounds. What do you think? We`re doing change here tonight -- #demandchange. Get involved, #demandchange. I want to hear from you.

More on the other side.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They`re coming and they want to talk about what they can do to honor these people forever. Some kind of a memorial -- I`m sure it will be a garden because my wife`s a landscape architect. It will be some kind of a permanent garden, I`m sure of that.




VELEZ-MITCHELL: At this makeshift memorial, you`re seeing several therapy dogs who have been brought in and they are providing comfort to those who have such pain and are dealing with such sadness and grief that words just don`t have any impact, they don`t have any effect. And so the dogs can provide a basic fundamental experience of love and solace that words cannot.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: We are here with some healers. These are comfort dogs. And these beautiful, beautiful creatures are brought in, in times of national tragedy such as we are experiencing here in Newtown, Connecticut.

We`re going to get the whole philosophy in a second but Tim, first of all, tell us who these dogs are.

TIM HETZNER, LUTHERAN CHURCH CHARITIES: Well, these are our comfort dogs. This is Luther. Luther is nearly two years old. This is Ruthie. Ruthie is just a year old. And Chewy will be two years old on Christmas Day. This is Chewy.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: These dogs were brought here by Lutheran church charities. Tim Hetzner, you`re organizing this. How do these dogs heal when a situation is beyond words? Because I`ve been at a loss for words for days now, where the words "tragedy", "incomprehensible" -- you run out of descriptions. You run out of adjectives and none of them do justice to the horror of what`s happened. How do these dogs help us cope?

HETZNER: They are wonderful listeners. They`re wonderful listeners. And that`s part of the healing process, is to allow people to share and to verbalize what they have gone through and the dogs are there to -- they give unconditional love and mercy and compassion. They`re kind of like counselors with fur, teddy bears with feet that listen to people. And we`ve seen that make a change in people as far as help people to smile again in the midst of what`s going on here.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: You know what it is, it`s a mood changer, and I experienced that when I went out to the memorial which is just on the other side of this creek. And you know, this is one of the most beautiful towns -- 300 years old, colonial times.

In fact, I`m a city girl. I grew up in Manhattan. I always would dream of one day, I could live in a beautiful place like this, idyllic. And to see this shattered.

And then I go to the town center where everybody is putting these candles and other tributes, and the glumness, the sadness was just overpowering. But then I saw the dogs and it was -- you know what it was? It was a mood changer. It changed everybody`s mood when these beautiful, beautiful babies came out.

HETZNER: Yes they are. Everywhere we go, that is what happens. They smile. They pet the dogs. Their blood pressure actually goes down. I mean there`s a physiological change. And it`s a wonderful thing to see. And we just -- we witness it. We`re there for them.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: One of the dogs just yawned.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They`ve been going all day. So it`s tiring for them.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Let me ask you about the dogs. Maybe I`ll ask you, ma`am. Do these dogs get sad when they are dealing with people who are absolutely just drowning in grief?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You know they don`t. They are trained to work. They are working dogs. They love what they do. It`s a pretty great job to be petted most of the day. They do -- we work them for just so many hours because we don`t want them to get fatigued and we rotate other dogs in. So we care about them getting overworked. But no, they love what they do.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: What`s this guy`s name again?

HETZNER: Luther.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Luther. You doing ok? You doing all right, Luther? They`re having a great time. What a mood changer.

I think this is the first time I`ve smiled probably since this show started. And these guys are the reason.

More on the other side.



GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Let me give you a quick introduction to all the dogs here. This is Chewy, this is Ruthie, Abby, Prince -- look at that -- Luther, Maggie, Hannah, Barney, and Shammy. These are the comfort dogs.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: There were hundreds and hundreds of students who go to Sandy Hook Elementary where this massacre occurred, so there are hundreds of survivors who are traumatized. And Tim Hetzner, I understand that these dogs were counseling, were comforting some of those kids. Tell us about that.

HETZNER: They were there when the parents and the children were coming to the activity center because the school was closed. And so they could stop and pet the dogs and be with them and spend some time with them and just some tremendous experiences from doing that with the kids.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: What was your sense in terms of the healing power of these beautiful animals when it came to those kids who were so close to this, who were so terribly traumatized?

HETZNER: I`ll share one example of a child that really hasn`t been talking since Friday. And started petting one of the dogs and started talking to the dog. So the mother was so overjoyed that her daughter was talking again and the tears. So the dogs bring that out, a calming sense.

And they`ll talk to the dogs like a person, and so many times they`ll talk to the dog and share what their experience was.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: God bless you for doing this because those kids need that so badly. And now let me ask you a little bit about the training because I have two dogs and my mom has one but they`re very excitable. These dogs are incredibly well behaved. How do you train a comfort dog?

HETZNER: Well, we take them through very specific service dog training. Although they`re not service dogs they`re trained to that level, we get them at about 8 to 10 weeks and put them in training for nine months, 24/7 with a single trainer. And then after that we take them for another month and take them out to hospitals and churches and schools with kids and elderly and escalators and elevators to make sure they can serve in the community and do just this where they don`t bark, don`t bite, don`t lick, don`t jump up on people and are calm and a calming influence.

That`s why we start at 5 1/2 weeks with the temperament of the dog so that they don`t bark and so you have to get them young when they don`t bark and you can start training them so they don`t develop some of the habits that your dogs may have.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes, absolutely.

HETZNER: Well, and the thing is they know that when they`re wearing the vest that they can`t do all those things. When we take the vest off of them, they are dogs again. They don`t bark and that. But they`re dogs again and like to play ball -- love to play ball, actually.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: So when they put their vests on, they know that they`re working. Could you maybe ask this --



VELEZ-MITCHELL: Ruthie. Look at that. Well, this is such a beautiful thing you do. I want to mention your organization again, Lutheran Church Charities and if you`d like to help get involved, Lutheran Church Charities.

These dogs are really needed in this community. I`ve spent a couple of days here and I have to say that the heartache and the heartbreak is beyond words. And thank you. Thank you, all of you, you, too, for giving me a chance to smile and giving those who are also here a chance to take a break from the horror.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Back here live. This is such a beautiful community, and I`ve spent the day with the wonderful people of Newtown, Connecticut and the village of Sandy Hook -- and remember this sign. This is what they want to leave America with. "We choose love." And they hope that everybody else in America also chooses love and that this unspeakable, unspeakable nightmare causes a new consciousness that emphasizes peace and love and nonviolence.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Can you summarize what your feelings are in terms of how we need to change?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I think a big part of what happened here is a cultural change that`s happened over the last 10, 15, 20 years with the advent of all these gangs and violence and movies and pornography. And I think gun control laws may do something to help a little bit, but somehow we have to find a way to turn the clock back and get these kids away from this stuff because you see the result. It`s there.

It`s every day in the paper. There`s hardly a day goes by that some girl isn`t killed or missing coming out of a bar one night or shootings like this -- malls, movie theaters, it`s everywhere.