Sandy Hook's youngest victims remembered as innocent children
Most of the lives lost in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting were those of children, who had every reason to hope for a bright future.
They were precisely attending that rural school, in a idyllic New England town in Connecticut, because their parents wanted to give them the best life has to offer.
And though their lives were short, they would be remembered by those who loved them -- and a nation in mourning for the killing of its innocent.
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Daniel Barden was a happy seven-year-old who lived in the same neighborhood as Adam Lanza and his mother, neighbors said.
Barden could often be seen playing with friends in the neighborhood, a subdivision of about 200 manicured homes set on a tree-lined hill, said Nicole Germak, 12, who lives in the neighborhood.
"It's a lot to take," said Germak, who attended Sandy Hook Elementary until three years ago.
Germak's father, Nick Germak, said neighbors have been coming to grips with the deaths - and the fact that they lived so close to the shooter.
"I think they're numb," Germak said.
Dylan Hockley, 6, was a playful boy whose family moved to the Newtown area after living in England, a neighbor said.
The Hockley family lives near the Lanza home on Yogananda Street in the subdivision of stately two-story homes. The Hockleys have swingsets in their front yard and are pleasant neighbors, Germak said.
The neighborhood was also home to victims Chase Kowalski, 7, and Daniel Barden, 6, said Germak.
"Just normal, happy kids," added Germak's daughter, Nicole, 12, who is a former Sandy Hook Elementary School student.
Charlotte Bacon, 6
JoAnn Bacon had bought her daughter a new pink dress and boots for the holidays.
But Charlotte, an outgoing girl with long and curly red hair, couldn't wait, said her uncle on her mother's side, John Hagen, of Nisawa, Minnesota.
She kept asking to wear her new outfit.
On Friday, her mother gave in. She let her wear the dress and boots and did her hair special for the end of the school week.
Hagen said his sister "was quite happy Charlotte was able to wear her dress and boots" but no one could have imagined it would be the last day they would see her alive.
Her older brother, Guy, was also in the school but survived the shootings.
Her parents, JoAnn and Joel, who had lived in Newtown for four or five years, and their extended family felt numb after the shooting, Hagen said.
"She was going to go some places in this world," Hagen said. "This little girl could light up the room for anyone."
Ana Marquez-Greene, 6
Ana Marquez-Greene spent last year's holidays reveling in celebrations with her extended family in her first trip to Puerto Rico.
The family had moved to Connecticut just two months ago but did not get to celebrate the holidays in their new home. The family arrived there from Canada, drawn in part by Sandy Hook's pristine reputation, said her grandmother Elba Marquez.
She said the child's 9-year-old brother was also at the school, but escaped safely.
Grandmother Elba Marquez had visited the new home over Thanksgiving and was perplexed at the killings.
"It was a beautiful place, just beautiful," she said. "What happened does not match up with the place where they live."
Noah Pozner, 6
The reason the parents of six-year-old Noah moved from New York to Connecticut was so the boy, his twin sister and older sister could attend Newtown's top schools and live in a safe community, said the victim's uncle.
The child had just visited with family last Saturday, said Arthur Pozner, of Brooklyn, who had only praise for his little nephew, now counted among the victims.
"Extremely, extremely mature -- when I was his age, I was not like him," Pozner said. "Very well brought up. Extremely bright. Extremely bright."
The boy's twin sister and 8-year-old sister were also students at the school, but they had not been hurt, Pozner said. He had not been able to reach the Connecticut family to see how they were coping with the tragedy.
"At this stage, two out of three survived... That's sad," he said. "The reason they moved to that area is because they did not consider any school in New York State on the same level -- that's one of the reasons they moved, for safety and education."
Grace McDonnell, 7
Grace, "a real cute little blonde girl with blue eyes," lived in a house that was still was still "all ablaze with Christmas lights" on the night after she was killed, neighbor Todd Werden told the Washington Post.
On many mornings, the Werdens saw Grace's father, Christopher McDonnell, a competitive runner, out for jog. The two families shared a school bus stop.
"It's heartbreaking, just heartbreaking," Werden said. "It's just unfathomable."
Chase Kowalski, 7
Chase was always outside, playing in the backyard, riding his bicycle. Just last week, he was visiting neighbor Kevin Grimes, telling him about completing -- and winning -- his first mini-triathlon.
"You couldn't think of a better child," Grimes said.
Grimes' own five children all attended Sandy Hook, too. Cars lined up outside the Kowalski's ranch home Saturday, and a state trooper's car idled in the driveway. Grimes spoke of the boy only in the present tense.
Emilie Parker, 6
Robbie Parker said his daughter Emilie -- a girl of bright blue eyes and shock of blond hair -- was the light of his life.
She was the kind of little girl who would try anything new and different, except food. She carried a piece of paper and crayons with her everywhere she went. She colored homemade cards for her friends and family when they were sad or didn't feel well.
She taught her little sisters, ages 4 and 3, how to dance and read. She kissed their boo-boos.
"She always had something kind to say about anybody," he said.
Parker said he and his wife don't know how to proceed after her death. But he knows their daughter left the world a better place, simply for having been in it.
Parker had one last memory to treasure from her. He had been teaching Emilie to speak a second language and the last time he saw her, as he headed off to work as a physician's assistant, she greeted him in Portuguese.
Catherine Hubbard, 6
A family friend turned reporters away from the house but Catherine’s parents released a statement expressing gratitude to emergency responders and for the supportive community.
“We are greatly saddened by the loss of our beautiful daughter, Catherine Violet and our thoughts and prayers are with the other families who have been affected by this tragedy,” Jennifer and Matthew Hubbard said. “We ask that you continue to pray for us and the other families who have experienced loss in this tragedy.”
Madeleine Hsu, 6
Dr. Matthew Velsmid was at Madeleine’s house Saturday, tending to her stricken family. He said the family did not want to comment.
Velsmid said that after learned of the shooting, he went to the triage area to provide medical assistance but there were no injuries to treat.
“We were waiting for casualties to come out and there was nothing. There was no need unfortunately,” he said. “This is the darkest thing I’ve ever walked into by far.”
Velsmid’s daughter, who attends another school, lost three of her friends.