NEWTOWN, Conn. (CBSNewYork) — Sandy Hook Elementary School parents faced a horrifying moment on Friday when they had to walk into a room and look around to find out if their son or daughter had been slaughtered by a school shooter.
First grader Shayne Frate told CBS 2’s Amy Dardashtian that when the gunman opened fire her teacher told the students to hide in the corner and keep quiet.
“We just were not moving, you couldn’t hear anything drop. You could hear a pin drop, it was just dead silence,” Frate said.
Teachers helped lead evacuations while tactical police units hunted the shooter and staged rescues. Even as they were being evacuated students said they were well aware of the horror that had erupted around them.
“When we were going out of the school we kinda knew that a lot of people were hurt and killed. It was scary,” Frate said.
After leaving the school, survivors were taken to the Sandy Hook Firehouse on Riverside Road. That is where parents came to find out if their children had lived or died.
“We got there right away. We were some of the first people there,” Rob Frate told CBS 2.
Children were seated by grade as parents frantically walked the perimeter of the room trying to identify them. Rob and Valerie Frate told CBS 2 that they found their daughter almost immediately.
“Sandy Hook is such a tight-knit community, everybody knew everybody’s face. Right when the parents came in and they had the frantic look on their face, everybody said ‘I see your daughter, she’s okay’ or ‘your son is here, don’t worry’,” Valerie Frate said.
Parents who found their children were instructed to stand against the wall and allow officials to take a head count. By noon most families had left with their children.
Parents who could not find their children were rushed into a separate room where clergy members and grief counselors were waiting.
“There were twenty children that were deceased and six teachers that were deceased. We had to positively identify these people,” explained Connecticut State Police LT. J. Paul Vance.
Some parents waited hours, holding out hope that their son or daughter had survived.
Police used photographic evidence and descriptions to identify victims. As victims were identified, the news was broken to grief-stricken parents.
“A trooper and a counselor and clergy were present when that final determination was made that the positive identification had been made,” said LT Vance.
For families who walked into the Sandy Hook Fire House, the experience is one that the Frates said, nobody else will ever understand.
“You carry that on your shoulders everyday. Our Friends lost their children,” Valerie said.
A State Trooper and a grief counselor have been assigned to each family that lost a loved one.
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