Alex von Kleydorff
Posted: Friday, December 14, 2012 10:01 pm | Updated: 12:29 pm, Mon Dec 17, 2012.
By MATT COYNE
NEWTOWN -- Shortly after Newtown Police got word of the tragedy unfolding at Sandy Hook School, Gene Rosen heard something outside.
He looked out the window of the loft over his garage where he was feeding cats he was watching. Rosen runs a pet service, petsitting and dog walking for clients in Newtown and the surrounding area.
It was a woman -- later identified as a bus driver -- consoling six children, whose ages he estimates at 6, 7 or 8, in his front yard.
"It appears they all had been in the class. It appears they had witnessed a shooting, maybe of their teacher," he said. "I don't know how it happened, but they fled, en masse, on their own. They just fled."
Rosen took them into his house. His house on 22 Riverside Road is over 200-years-old and painted yellow, right next to the Sandy Hook Fire Department that would later become the "staging area" where parents were reunited with their children or sequestered into another room.
"They were so distraught, they were so upset. We called their parents, one by one and they stayed here maybe 30 minutes, and finally some of their parents start coming here and picking them up," Rosen said.
The children sat in Rosen's green-carpeted back room. He brought them stuffed animals and toys that belonged to his grandson, who Rosen takes to Sandy Hook School to ride bikes and go on the swings. He got them juice. They described the gun. A few of the kids said it was a big one, other said it was small. It was later confirmed the shooter had three guns, two pistols and a rifle. They talked about blood coming out of someone's mouth.
"They kind of calmed down a little, they said I can't go back to that school, I don't ever want to go back, what's going to happen, our teacher's dead, are we going to get another teacher," said Rosen, who had been living in his yellow house on Riverside since 1972. "That's how they were talking. They were talking about blood."
Rosen said the six children kept mentioning a Mrs. Soto. The ages of the children would put them in first or second grade. Statistics from the Capitol Education Research Council say Newtown had an average of 18.7 students in second grade. Officials said the shooting that took the lives of 20 children and six adults took place in two classrooms in the school.
"This lady came to my door looking for her son," Rosen said. "It creeps me out to think that her son could've been one of the fatalities."
Rosen said Friday morning was unreal, surreal. He could not stop saying the children were traumatized and frightened. He said he could not imagine what they went through that day. He wants to see the children again.
"It just broke my heart, even if they weren't my children. These kids were traumatized. They were so freighted and we started calling up their parents and they kept talking about the incident. The shooting," Rosen said. "I can't tell you how unimaginable this is. It's horrible. To see all these police cars and to think there's a shooting and there were children involved is just horrible."