The following report is from The Associated Press and WNYC's SchoolBook. The comments from New York City and the tri-state area are pouring in to WNYC. See what people in the extended community are thinking about as the news of this tragedy spreads. Comment here.
6:25 p.m. |Update
Mayor Michael Bloomberg issued the following statement as the co-chair of the group Mayors Against Illegal Guns:
“With all the carnage from gun violence in our country, it’s still almost impossible to believe that a mass shooting in a kindergarten class could happen. It has come to that. Not even kindergarteners learning their A,B,Cs are safe. We heard after Columbine that it was too soon to talk about gun laws. We heard it after Virginia Tech. After Tucson and Aurora and Oak Creek. And now we are hearing it again. For every day we wait, 34 more people are murdered with guns. Today, many of them were five-year olds. President Obama rightly sent his heartfelt condolences to the families in Newtown. But the country needs him to send a bill to Congress to fix this problem. Calling for ‘meaningful action’ is not enough. We need immediate action. We have heard all the rhetoric before. What we have not seen is leadership – not from the White House and not from Congress. That must end today. This is a national tragedy and it demands a national response. My deepest sympathies are with the families of all those affected, and my determination to stop this madness is stronger than ever.”
And Chancellor Dennis Walcott made public the letter he sent to principals. It said:
"This morning, horrific violence in Newtown, Connecticut took the lives of many students and educators at the Sandy Hook Elementary School. While this tragedy occurred outside the bounds of our city, I know you share my sorrow for the students, families, and colleagues affected. In the wake of such an event, you and members of your school community may be faced with questions about your own safety. We have been in constant communication with the NYPD and their School Safety Division, whose vigilance keeps our schools safe. I know that each of you has done a lot to prepare your Building Response Team to work with first responders in the event of an emergency. I encourage you to guide your staff and students in maintaining your school’s regular schedule and continuing to be sensitive to the needs of your students as they learn more about this loss. Crisis intervention resources and support strategies are posted on the Youth Development page on the Principals’ Portal, and your network is available to support you if you need additional assistance.
Our thoughts and prayers go out to the entire Newtown community as it struggles to cope with this tragic loss of life. My thanks to you and your staff as you continue to offer our students solace and security."
3:12 p.m. |Update
Ernie Logan, president of the Council of Supervisors and Administrators, issued a statement saying "The school in Newtown, Connecticut could have been in any community including ours and we consider these children our own. Surely, the whole nation of families, educators and all good people feels the same way. We mourn almost beyond bearing the slaughter of these innocents at the hands of deranged gunmen. We pray for these babies, their distraught classmates, families, friends, neighbors and educators. Our heads are bowed."
A spokeswoman at the Department of Education said the chancellor would not be releasing at statement at this time.
A gunman opened fire inside a Connecticut elementary school Friday, killing 26 people, including 18 children, and forcing students to cower in classrooms and then flee with the help of teachers and police.
The death toll was given to The Associated Press by an official who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation was still under way.
The shooting appeared to be the nation's second-deadliest school shooting, exceeded only by the Virginia Tech massacre in 2007.
Parents flooded to Sandy Hook Elementary School, about 60 miles northeast of New York City, looking for their children in the wake of the shooting. Students were told to close their eyes by police as they were led from the building.
A photo taken by The Newtown Bee newspaper showed a group of young students - some crying, others looking visibly frightened - being escorted by adults through a parking lot in a line, hands on each other's shoulders.
Students and staff were among the victims, state police Lt. Paul Vance said a brief news conference. He also said the gunman was dead inside the school, but he refused to say how people were killed.
Another official, speaking on condition of anonymity because the investigation was still under way, said the gunman apparently had two guns.
A law enforcement official in Washington said the attacker was a 20-year-old man with ties to the school and that one of the guns was a .223-caliber rifle. The official also said that police were searching a location in New Jersey in connection with the shootings. That official spoke on the condition of anonymity because the source was not authorized to speak on the record about the developing criminal investigation.
Robert Licata said his 6-year-old son was in class when the gunman burst in and shot the teacher.
"That's when my son grabbed a bunch of his friends and ran out the door," he said. "He was very brave. He waited for his friends."
He said the shooter didn't say a word.
Stephen Delgiadice said his 8-year-old daughter heard two big bangs and teachers told her to get in a corner. His daughter was fine.
"It's alarming, especially in Newtown, Connecticut, which we always thought was the safest place in America," he said.
A dispatcher at the Newtown Volunteer Ambulance Corps said a teacher had been shot in the foot and taken to Danbury Hospital.
Andrea Rynn, a spokeswoman at the hospital, said it had three patients from the school but she did not have information on the extent or nature of their injuries.
Mergim Bajraliu, 17, heard the gunshots echo from his home and raced to check on his 9-year-old sister at the school. He said his sister, who was fine, heard a scream come over the intercom at one point. He said teachers were shaking and crying as they came out of the building.
"Everyone was just traumatized," he said.
Richard Wilford's 7-year-old son, Richie, is in the second grade at the school. His son told him that he heard a noise that "sounded like what he described as cans falling."
The boy told him a teacher went out to check on the noise, came back in, locked the door and had the kids huddle up in the corner until police arrived.
"There's no words," Wilford said. "It's sheer terror, a sense of imminent danger, to get to your child and be there to protect him."
Melissa Makris, 43, said her 10-year-old son, Philip, was in the school gym.
"He said he heard a lot of loud noises and then screaming. Then the gym teachers immediately gathered the children in a corner and kept them safe in a corner," Makris said.
The fourth-grader told his mother that the students stayed huddled until police came in the gym. He also told her that he saw what looked like a body under a blanket as he fled the school.
"He said the policeman came in and helped them get out of the building and told them to run," Makris said. "And they ran to the firehouse."
The White House said Barack Obama was notified of the shooting and his spokesman Jay Carney said the president had "enormous sympathy for families that are affected."