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Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy told reporters late on Friday he never expected to relive the kind of grief he and others felt after the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and Washington in 2001.
“Evil visited this community today,” Malloy said.
The chaos struck as children gathered in their classrooms for morning events. The shootings took place in two rooms, police said. Witnesses reported hearing dozens of shots; some said as many as 100 rounds.
Former classmates of the shooter remembered him as a quiet loner - someone who dressed more formally than other students, often wearing khaki pants, button-down shirts and at times, a pocket protector.
“(His mother) pushed him really hard to be smarter and work harder in school,” said Tim Arnone, 20, who first met Lanza at Sandy Hook.
The death toll exceeded that of one of the most notorious U.S. school shootings, the 1999 rampage at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, where two teenagers murdered 13 students and staff before killing themselves.
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, founder of the advocacy group Mayors Against Illegal Guns, said it was “almost impossible to believe a mass shooting in a kindergarten class could happen.
“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,” Bloomberg said. “That must end today.”
World leaders expressed horror as they offered condolences to the United States. Washington’s arch-foe Tehran also offered its sympathies, with Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman describing the killings as “tragic.”
Pope Benedict conveyed his “heartfelt grief” through Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone.
“In the aftermath of this senseless tragedy, he asks God our Father to console all those who mourn and to sustain the entire community with the spiritual strength which triumphs over violence by the power of forgiveness, hope and reconciling love,” Bertone said.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said, “The news from Newtown saddens me deeply. Once again, we’re completely aghast over an act that we can’t comprehend. An incredible suffering has been brought to so many families so close to Christmas.”