The tragedy that has befallen the sleepy town of Newtown, Conn. has gripped the nation as people try to make sense of the massacre that abruptly ended the lives of 20 young children. As the days go on, we’re beginning to hear more and more of the survivors’ stories.
Gene Rosen, a 69-year-old retired psychologist and grandfather, is one of the good, brave souls who stepped in to help the children in their time of need. Rosen said that he saw the children sitting in a semi-circle on his driveway, so he invited them in while they waited for their parents to retrieve them.
Rosen listened to the horror stories as the children bemoaned the loss of their teacher, Victoria Soto, according to a report from the AP:
Rosen said he had heard the staccato sound of gunfire about 15 minutes earlier but dismissed it as an obnoxious hunter in the nearby woods.
“I had no idea what had happened,” Rosen said. “I couldn’t take that in.”
He walked the children past his small goldfish pond with its running waterfall, and the garden he made with his two grandchildren, into the small yellow house he shares with his wife.
He ran upstairs and grabbed an armful of stuffed animals. He gave those to the children, along with some fruit juice, and sat with them as the two boys described seeing their teacher being shot.
Victoria Soto, 27, was a first-grade teacher killed when 20-year-old Adam Lanza burst into her classroom. It wasn’t clear how the children escaped harm, but there have been reports that Soto hid some of her students from the approaching gunman. The six who turned up at Rosen’s home did apparently have to run past her body to safety.
“They said he had a big gun and a little gun,” said Rosen, who didn’t want to discuss other details the children shared.
The most jarring and alarming part of Rosen’s story is the unhappy ending, once all of the children who showed up at his doorstep were returned to their parents.
Some parents, those of the deceased, came knocking looking for their children. And in that moment, Rosen lost it:
A couple of hours after the last child left, a knock came on his door. It was a frantic mother who had heard that some children had taken refuge there. She was looking for her little boy.
“Her face looked frozen in terror,” Rosen said, breaking down in tears.
“She thought maybe a miracle from God would have the child at my house,” he said. Later, “I looked at the casualty list … and his name was on it.”
There is nothing that can prepare you for this sort of thing. And Rosen, a sweet man by all appearances, couldn’t keep it together very much while he sat for an interview with CBS News: