NEWTOWN, Conn. -- Twenty children who had simply come to learn at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Newtown, Conn., Friday are dead, along with eight adults, in one of the worst shooting massacres in U.S. history.
Around 9:30 a.m., with classes underway, a young man reportedly dressed in black and wearing a bullet-proof vest, entered the elementary school about 60 miles northeast of New York City.
Minutes later multiple gunshots rang out. The gunman, described as masked and heavily armed, reportedly used a .223-calibre rifle, as well as two handguns - a Glock and a Sig Sauer. He has been identified as 20-year-old Adam Lanza.
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"Evil visited this community," Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said Friday afternoon.
Initial reports said that principal of the school, Dawn Hochsprung and a school psychologist, ran in the direction of the loud bangs. They were subsequently killed.
At least 20 children, along with eight adults, including the gunman, were killed in the shooting incident. Police say the attack took place in two rooms within a single section of the school.
The first 911 calls came in around 9:40 a.m. with many students trapped in their classrooms. Nine-year-old Vanessa Bajraliu heard the gunshots during her art class.
"The police came and we heard screaming on loud speakers," Bajraliu said.
One 4th grader who was in a gym class described the scene as swat police came storming into her class.
"Police came in, 'Is he in here?' and ran out. Then our teacher came in and somebody yelled get to the safe place," student Brendon Murrey said.
Newtown is now home to the second worst school shooting in U.S. history, after 32 died at Virginia Tech in 2007.
Friday's shooting is the third major gun attack in the United States in this year. In July an attacker killed 12 people at a premiere of a Batman film in Aurora, Colo.. In August six people died at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin. Just this week two people died in a shooting at a shopping mall in Oregon.
Late yesterday afternoon at the White House, a clearly emotional President Barack Obama offered condolences to the families of survivors.
Wiping tears from his eyes, the president spoke of the "overwhelming grief" at the loss of life.
"Our hearts are broken today, for the parents, grandparents, sisters and brothers of these children, and for the families of the adults who were lost," Obama said.
In light of the tragedy, the president ordered all flags to fly at half mast.
The victims at Sandy Hook Elementary School are believed to include the school principal, teachers and young pupils aged between five and 10 years old.
The killer's mother Nancy Lanza was a teacher at the school and is also believed to have been killed. It is believed that most of the fatalities happened in her classroom.
Late Friday evening, Franklin Graham, president of Samaritan's Purse, and eldest son of famed evangelist Billy Graham issued a statement.
"Senseless killings like the one we've seen today in Newtown, Conn., leave us stunned and looking for answers," Graham said. "The Bible tells us the human heart is 'wicked' and 'who can know it?' My heart aches for the victims, their families and the entire community."
In response to the tragedy, several churches in and around the Newtown community opened their doors for vigils.