Teachers risked, lost their lives to protect Sandy Hook children

(CBS News) NEWTOWN, Conn. - As we learn more about the chaos and terror inside Sandy Hook Elementary School on Friday morning, we're hearing more about some extraordinary heroism from teachers inside, some in the last moments in their lives.

Everywhere there is grief: the corner gas station, the local diner, and most certainly at any one of a number of places where mourners have gathered.

The news that the 6 and 7-year-olds had all been shot multiple times further devastated an already broken community.

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"They're just babies, you know. They're just babies. They shouldn't be taken away from their mother and father. It'is just awful," mourner Sarah Simshack said through tears.

The children who survived were protected by their teachers. Janet Vollmer gathered her kindergarteners in one corner.

"We could hear things that were muffled, but they definitely sounded like gunshots," she said.

Eighteen years of teaching experience kicked in. "We all got away from the windows, covered the window, locked the classroom door because the children started to say at one point, 'I'm scared," she recounted. "I said, 'Well, I think we're going to be okay. I think maybe somebody's up on the roof making noises,' and, again, trying to divert their attention."

Finally, the police told them it was safe to leave.

"They said have everybody hold hands, come down the hallway, cover their eyes," said Vollmer. "So we did. As I'm by the hallway, as the grownup, I do spot blood on the floor, so I know things aren't good. I don't know whether any of them saw that. We kept going, kept moving.

Vicki Soto also taught 1st grade.

"Vicki was a very colorful, vibrant young girl. She just turned 27 years old. She loved beach. She has black Lab named Roxie. She loves her family," her cousin Jim Wiltsie said.

Her father told Wiltsie she had gathered her students into a closet. She was killed standing in front, protecting them.

"The family has peace and pride knowing that she passed doing something she loved, and her instincts kicked in and whatever transpired, whatever details transpired in that classroom, we know in our hearts she was protecting those kids from that shooter," he said.

Fred Roger -- Mr. Rogers to most of us -- used to say that when he was a little boy and he saw something scary, his mother would tell him, 'Look for the helpers. You will always find people helping," and certainly that was the case in Newtown.

  • Michelle Miller

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