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A Photographer’s First Hand Account of the Sandy Hook School Shooting

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On the morning of December 14th, 2012 I found myself scanning the redundant array of social media apps on my phone. Just as I was about to pry myself out of bed, I had come across a recent twitter post by one of my fellow graduates of Newtown High School. In just a few minutes I would learn that my former hometown elementary school had become the site of one of the most horrific school shootings that this country has ever seen.

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My stomach hit the floor and my senses ignited as I sprung upwards in an instant. My initial thought was “Holy sh**. I hope my little brother is okay.” My little brother is a 5th grader in the Newtown school district, while my younger sister attends the high school. I began to search frantically for any local news reports online. Sure enough “Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting” was a top-headline, and the entire world would come to know the unthinkable details in a few hours.

Momentary relief had graced my thoughts knowing that neither of my younger siblings were students at the school involved. I was convinced for about an hour that everything was just a big misunderstanding, that the initial news crews had been misinformed on the nature of the crime. However something had already felt horribly wrong. Suddenly, I had received an unexpected email from a photojournalism agency in London, who had come across my information while searching for “newtown photographers” on the Internet.

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Less than three years ago I had moved away from home in Newtown to pursue my photography career in the central part of Connecticut. Once a week, time-permitting, I have made a habit of taking the one-hour drive back to Newtown to visit family and spend time in a place that I’ve called home for as long as I can remember. Feeling a particularly powerful sense of obligation, I threw on some proper clothes and grabbed my camera on the way out the door, with none of my usual gear. Realizing that I would be responsible for personally documenting the following events, I felt like I had not one second to waste.

Ignoring literally every posted speed limit, I managed to knock the one-hour drive back to Newtown down to a 40-minute trip. Knowing Sandy Hook school like the back of my hand I was on a frantic mission to get on scene as soon as possible. Just as I was closing in on the location, initial details began to emerge. “At least 18 reported dead in Newtown school shooting”. Everything in me was then taken over by the realization that this was far worse than I had initially thought. I was going to have to accept that this was likely to become emotionally taxing and potentially even dangerous.

Treadwell Park was now up ahead on my left, less than a mile from the school’s grounds on the desolate back roads of Sandy Hook. An armada of hovering helicopters came into view above the tree line, as if I was suddenly dropped into a Hollywood movie set. The road leading up to the school was completely blocked off by police and emergency vehicles. I pulled onto a side-street across from the school and parked rather haphazardly. Upon stepping out of the car, I could feel the chopping helicopter blades pulsating through the air surrounding Sandy Hook School and myself.

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It had felt so much like a bad dream, there was a cold sensation taking over everything, despite the beaming sunshine that lit up the scene. Hundreds of personnel were flooding the intersection in endless waves. Someone ran in the opposite direction yelling into their cell phone “20 children are dead in the school, Parents haven’t found their children”. Terror surged through my veins and I remember my feet and fingers were shaking uncontrollably as I walked closer. Approaching the firehouse at the entrance to the school, I saw families, kids, and parents panicking and running amongst the sporadic maze of police cars flooding the intersection. Every inch of land I was standing on was now seen in a drastically different light, no longer an untouched memory from my childhood.

I spent about three minutes standing amongst the chaos before recalling what I was there to do, and I abruptly began capturing photos that I felt would be relevant in documenting a situation of this nature. Three minutes is the same amount of time that it took Adam Lanza to storm the halls of Sandy Hook elementary school, cutting 26 innocent lives short with his mother’s AR-15 assault rifle. There is an unprecedented level of ferocity involved with that realization, which will haunt my thoughts for a long time as I try to understand why. I cannot even imagine the fear that the victims had endured, or the terror that the first responders had faced with undaunted courage and duty when they arrived on scene.

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I spent the remainder of the morning trying to continue to do my job to the best of my ability. But it became clear that there was nothing myself or the dozens of heavily armed policemen could do to help anyone, other than to remain sensitive to the families of these victims who’s lives had been shattered without warning. The damage was done even before the first responders had arrived, and the grieving process was only just beginning for the families of this community.

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Moments later, Connecticut Governor, Dannel P. Malloy, had arrived on scene with an evident sense of disbelief upon being briefed on the confidential details of the shooting. A press release was about to be made down the street at Treadwell Park, which was to be broadcasted by all the major networks. International news crews had begun to set-up shop over the formerly empty sidewalks and peaceful streets of Newtown for as far as you could see. There were now hundreds of experienced professionals here to take over my temporary role as a photojournalist.

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I didn’t realize how deeply the pain and suffering I had witnessed that day would grab hold of me as badly as it had during the following weeks. I was perpetually fighting back tears any time my mind wasn’t fully preoccupied, and I was finding it extremely difficult to concentrate long enough to go about any sort of normal routine. To this day I cannot stop replaying everything over and over again. Everything that happened makes me feel angry, upset, frustrated, confused.

Nun walks into the firehouse, moments before Gov. Malloy broke the initial news to all of the involved families

Nun walks into the firehouse, moments before Gov. Malloy broke the initial news to all of the involved families

Gov. Malloy, walking towards the firehouse where he is about to personally break the news to all of the affected families for the first time

Gov. Malloy, walking towards the firehouse where he is about to personally break the news to all of the affected families for the first time

Having gone to the same high school and primary schools as the shooter, I cannot get the distinct image of him out of my head. I had known him only as an extremely quiet, painfully shy underclassman. You simply couldn’t go throughout the day without noticing Adam Lanza. He would pace rapidly around our hallways as if constantly late, with the same over-sized dress shirt and black briefcase every day of the week. You would never see him without his eyes peeled open, staring into either a corner or the floor as if someone was going to harm him for looking in their general direction.

I always felt bad seeing him in such a painful trance day-in and day-out, I couldn’t imagine how awful that must’ve felt. I just don’t think anyone would’ve ever been able to predict him doing anything violent or hurtful, there was nothing to hint at the possibility of such a rage-induced act. Yet I will never stop asking myself if something could’ve been done by myself or my peers to prevent this tragedy in the first place.

Two days prior to the events that transpired, I was talking to my girlfriend about the unmatched aura that surrounds the town of Newtown. “It’s the only safe place to raise kids,” I had confidently preached, “you just feel secluded from all the negativity that resides elsewhere in the world”. This particular Friday the 14th might have proven very differently, but I do not regret what I had said about my hometown. The essence of Newtown is of a very different breed, it is something I have come to terms with not being able to live without. To this day I still enjoy sneaking into the “prohibited” grounds of the abandoned Fairfield Hills hospital late at night, admiring the massive 360-degree view on top of Holcombe Hill, or just driving through the scenic back roads of Sandy Hook, which are all-but lacking in lush forestry and rolling farmlands. However, all of these things will feel different from here on out, and that is something I am learning to accept.

I suppose it was just terribly bad luck, combined with the troubled mind of local Adam Lanza, which allowed such terror to unfold in this community. There is a new weight that the remaining survivors of Newtown will have to take on and it seems like a task that will take a long time getting used to. We owe it to these torn families to live our lives honestly, and to the absolute fullest from this point forward. “For those of us who remain, let us find the strength to carry on, and make our country worthy of their memory.” (Barack Obama, 12.16.12)

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Never forgotten: Charlotte Bacon, Daniel Barden, Rachel Davino, Olivia Engel, Josephine Gay, Ana M. Marquez-Greene, Dylan Hockley, Dawn Hochsprung, Madeleine F. Hsu, Catherine V. Hubbard, Chase Kowalski, Nancy Lanza, Jesse Lewis, James Mattioli, Grace McDonnell, Anne Marie Murphy, Emilie Parker, Jack Pinto, Noah Pozner, Caroline Previdi, Jessica Rekos, Avielle Richman, Lauren Rousseau, Mary Sherlach, Victoria Soto, Benjamin Wheeler, Allison N. Wyatt

Please consider offering support to those who have been directly impacted by this horrific tragedy.


About the author: Roger Sieber is a photographer and filmmaker based in Manchester, Connecticut. Visit his website here. This article originally appeared here.


 
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  • adamsghost

    go to Sandy Hook Hoax ~educate yourself.

  • Undergraduate

    Amazing how the vampires turn out at the first smell of blood. Sieber and the rest of the “journalists” are worse than the killer. They create a market for these lunatics. They actually stimulate demand for bloodshed. Sick? They are the sickest of the sick.

  • http://twitter.com/intensitystudio Antonio Carrasco

    Yeah, if you are going to play photojournalist, you should learn how to edit photos as in select the ones that tell the story while leaving out the ones that do nothing to tell your story.

    Also, you need to not edit your photos, as in leave out the VSCO effects. Making your photos look like they are from the 80′s is a big no no for photojournalism :)

  • http://twitter.com/intensitystudio Antonio Carrasco

    Wow, the crazies are out

  • http://twitter.com/intensitystudio Antonio Carrasco

    go back to the forums at info wars dot com and leave us alone, you nut

  • http://twitter.com/intensitystudio Antonio Carrasco

    yeah because some idiot with a youtube account is always a great source for information

  • Ryan

    I never bothered you to begin with. I wouldn’t expect someone from Comifornia to understand anything that relates to common sense.

  • Samuel

    Saying photojournalism of these sorts of events is creating a market for future murderers and that you shouldn’t run any stories about them because it promotes them is idiotic and lazy. If you are a mentally messed up young person who is willing to kill a whole bunch of people then your self just for the publicity then you are probably messed up enough to do it without any media coverage.

    Ignoring events on that basis is just selective ignorance, just as calling someone “Pure evil” is just brushing them under the carpet by admitting its a subhuman act that the world can have no part in. If you really think not documenting and ignoring such cases as this will have any effect in reducing it happening in the future then you are painfully deluded about the concept of mentally ill people and guns being left lying around the house.

    Also the photos considering the circumstances are pretty good, i can’t imagine my hands would even be functional enough to fiddle with the buttons if i had to go and photograph a shooting at my former elementary school.

  • http://twitter.com/intensitystudio Antonio Carrasco

    NO, I just no you loons who are out there denying whether Sandy Hook ever happened are mentally ill. You have already chosen to depart from reality and whenever you are confronted with facts or evidence, you just change the narrative again to fit your predetermined conspiracy theory.

    You people are nuts and I do not care to argue with mental cases.

  • Ryan

    I never said it didn’t happen, and I’m not arguing that it didn’t happen; you are. You should learn the basic skill of reading comprehension before you comment as well as how to spell the word “know”.

  • Roger Sieber

    Well rehearsed, man! Keep in mind, there’s a reason why I don’t call myself a photojournalist

  • cantfoolme

    Roger sieber must be one of the “reeeaaallly good photographers” Harold Wayne carver was talking about.

  • cantfoolme

    Just curious do you believe everything mainstream media says? Sounds like you do.

  • cantfoolme

    Such a shame you buy this with out any proof at all. If you have seen any please share.

  • CZ

    It looks like a drill to me.

  • Dave

    Where in my comment do you come up with that assumption? Just throwing out an insult because you disagree with me tells a lot about what level you operate on. I do tend to believe news reports that are supported by evidence. My comment about 9/11 was for the conspiracy theorists who claim it was done by the CIA when there are mountains of evidence that it was perpetrated by 19 mostly (15) Saudi nationals. Our misguided friend ‘Ryan’ was directed to a page that was published by the investigating officer of the Sandy Hook tragedy that debunked everything he was saying, and he STILL cried about it being suspect because the coroner had not chimed in. You and I know damn well had I provided a coroner report that supported what the investigating officer said, he would still disbelieve it and claim that the pathologist had not yet put in his two cents. This would have gone on until he demanded that the head of the NRA admit that it was an assault rifle that was used in all of the deaths except the shooters suicide.

    So no, I don’t believe everything the media says. But I am not a fool that keeps on making noise when it is getting obvious that I am mistaken. And I am not an idiot that slings out unfounded insults just because I disagree with someone.

  • Dave

    As you should know how to spell the word ‘rifle’. In an above post you spelled it ‘riffle’. Spelling 101 back at ‘ya.

  • cantfoolme

    I possed a question I did not insult you, you took offense to it that’s your problem, don’t take your in insecurities out on me guy. I asked the question because you referred to an article and a statement within that article and call it fact. That’s not proof of anything. The fact is there is no proof what so ever that any children died (Not saying they didn’t) that has been shown, this whole thing can be settled if they show the footage of Adam pulling up to the school getting out with all his weapons and shooting through the glass. They allready stated there was state of the art cameras installed all over the school. Point is the amount of holes in this entire event is unreal. Second no assault riffle was used or claimed to have been used. Ignorance is no excuse. An assault riffle is fully automatic or has three round bursts. The riffle allegedly used was semi automatic, there is a huge difference. Just because you keep hearing it said over and over doesn’t make it true. “Tell a lie loud enough and long enough the people will believe it!” Hitler. It is terrible that evil exists in this world but it does. Making laws to restrict law abiding citizens RIGHTS will do nothing to prevent criminals from comiting evil acts. They don’t obey the law. The governments roll is not to protect us it is to preserve and defend the constitution.

  • Dave

    Your spelling alone indicates the intelligence of who I am wasting my time with. The organization that is investigating the mass murder has released a statement revealing which weapons were used. They were there, you weren’t. Should I believe them or should I believe a rabid conspiracy theorist that is probably wrapping his/her entire body in tin foil as we speak? It does not matter how many facts are presented to people like you, you will deny everything you are shown to support crackpot ideas. Thank heavens there are only a few of you.

  • Dave

    And fyi, a document from the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection is not the ‘main stream media’. Pull your head out.

  • Ryan

    Nothing was debunked try again, and no I wasn’t crying. Once again provide me with a crooner’s report that factually states they have .223 wounds resulting from an AR-15. Any officer in the world can say they were shot by whatever. Remember when the event first happened? He used this and that and they were 2 3 or 4 men. Give me a factual document released from the case files not something a police officer posts on the internet. Good luck because they probably won’t ever be released. I hope they are though.

  • john_truth

    Show me one picture of any evidence of any firearm being discharged in that school. You can’t. Because there is none. If a 5.56 AR was actually used there would be many more wounded than dead. A 5.56 round is a very high velocity round, where is the damage to the outside of the building? Where are the spent shell casings? Every real crime scene not only takes photos of those for evidence, but also marks each one on the ground where it landed. Not one shown anywhere. None of the “victims” have any evidence on them of any crime being committed.

  • john_truth

    Then there is the claim that Adam Lanza, with zero training on any type of firearm, blows out the front door (again, zero evidence: no pictures of anything) walks into a school dressed in body armor, carrying THREE guns, and takes out more people accurately than a professional mob assassin. First off, where did he get the body armor, and why was he wearing it? Second, why pack TWO handguns of different calibers. That makes no sense whatsoever, especially since he was already carrying lots of heavy gear on his 110 lb frame. That part of the story alone raises tons of questions. Then there is the 5.56 round itself. It makes ZERO sense that such an extremely high velocity, high penetration round didn’t injure more than it allegedly killed. If he fired off 100′s of rounds there would be exit bullet holes all over that school. Yet there are none. Explain these magic bullets please?

  • john_truth

    A piece of paper saying those weapons were used is not evidence. Show me some real evidence. You can’t. Because there is none. The whole thing was fake.

  • john_truth

    Your “document” proves nothing. Show me some real evidence. You can’t. Because it didn’t happen.

  • john_truth

    Why? Because 96% of all gun-related crime is committed by violent felons. That according to FBI crime statistics. Even though there are 100′s of people killed in inner cities by gang-related, black-on-black crime, that story doesn’t carry enough emotion for the nazi gun grabbers. That and the fact that while millions more people arm themselves, crime is falling dramatically.

  • john_truth

    What established “facts”? I’ve seen nothing but a drill with absolutely no evidence of a single round being fired. The whole thing was fake.

  • Anthony

    No, the shame lies in your foolish and delusional ignorance. The proof is ample and readily available for you to comprehend. It is not our responsibility to hold your hand into arriving at that simple comprehension.

    Jimmy Greene is notable jazz musician, and we have mutual friends. He is not in the business of acting out the murder of his child for the purpose of having your government take guns away from its citizens. I assure you, he would much rather make art and hug his little girl every night. RIP Ana and all the victims, and their families.

  • Anthony

    So 40 parents are acting out the murders of their little children, is what you are saying. Congratulations for demonstrating your heartless ignorance. What your life must be like, I cannot possibly imagine.

  • Anthony

    So 40 parents are acting out the murders of their young children, is that you are saying?

  • Anthony

    I’m sorry but the burden of proof for all rational and reasonable people is met. The burden is upon you to present a reasonable counter, to disprove the event. You know, stuff like rockets attached to the 9/11 planes. Things like that.

  • Chas

    you sir are a bafoon. A disinformation agent of the lowest caliber, IT DID NOT HAPPEN! Why lie down with that dog puppet Soetoro? You are not right in the head.

  • Anthony

    Says the guy taking to the Internet to say that 40 parents are making up the brutal murders of their young and innocent children.

  • cantfoolme

    So what my bad spelling discredits me? Ad hominem responses don’t help your case buddy. You should’nt believe me or the organization that is investigating it, you should believe the dictionary an assault rifle is an automatic weapon used by military. Look it up Smarty. By the way your spelling isn’t perfect either. Also a lot more people doubt this story than you think in fact anyone who has really looked into finds that it simply doesn’t add up.

  • Chas

    yes that is what I am saying. They are all actors. To the guy who is taking up the internet with some b.s pictures and lamer band vids. Go blow daddy-o

  • Anthony

    I own a shotgun, and my extended family owns more guns than I can count. Yours is a nasty response, made by an angry person with a tenuous grasp of reality. Like I said originally, what a massively foolish lot we all have to deal with.

    I assure you, I have no intention of putting a clearly unstable person like yourself in contact with people I know who have connections to this. All the names of the victims are published, sir. Good luck in your quest for the truth.

  • SEW

    You should really take some time and research before you jump to conclusions and only believe what the MSM is saying. Look at BOTH sides and then decide. There are MANY inconsistencies in this event that are NOT being discussed and are being hidden.

  • sew

    Where is this proof?? They found the AR in the trunk. Did Adam kill himself and then go back to the vehicle to put them in the trunk? How does that work?? Please provide the facts and proof that you have…it would relieve many to see what NO ONE else is showing to us.

  • SEW

    Please awaken…..

  • Anthony

    SEW, I’m not jumping to a conclusion. 20 children and six adults are dead. Thousands of people are, by extension, connected to this, and they are enduring incredible grief. I don’t believe the MSM for a second, nor politicians. But this happened, and every reasonable and rationale person in the world knows it did. It is an insult of the highest order to accuse these poor parents of “acting.” What a disgrace to suggest something so despicable.

  • Dave

    You can’t read a police report can you? The SHOTGUN was in the trunk. He took the AR and two handguns with him. The AR was the sole gun used in the murders and one handgun was used for his suicide. See how easy that was? Sometimes you fools try harder at making up an impossible lie about something than just looking at the facts. The police that have investigated this crime have released this information. They were there. You can believe them or you can believe a YouTube video put together by what is probably a 15 year old and believe what you want.

  • Dave

    Of the 20 version, you fools made up 19 of them. And the only tear in your eye would have been caused by the fear of having guns regulated. You are a phony.

  • Anthony

    I’m sorry your post didn’t make sense. Please rephrase into something comprehensible and I’ll be glad to respond. Thanks!

  • Dave

    Have someone help you read it. Sorry I couldn’t use crayons for you.

  • Anthony

    Sorry Dave, I thought the “20″ referred to the kids. My fault. Thanks for taking on this idiocy with me.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_A4RT2SGN4SZUGQT46UYRHJFRMM BellRinger

    There is a picture of the very small cop in one of the photos. He a “coplet.”

  • http://www.facebook.com/dan.plesse Dan Plesse

    Do you have a photo of Adam or do you have more photos online to share? thanks

  • Bryan

    Thanks so much. Could you help us out with a timeline of these?

  • Bryan

    Seems a fair question since there aren’t any that have been seen really..

  • Paul Revere

    Folks take a good look at the first picture in the series of photos. If you do not see the toxic chemtrails that were sprayed only minutes before Roger took the photo you better wake up. If you do see the chemtrails in front of you in this photo and dont yet know what they are then google What In The World Are They Spraying and Why In The World Are They Spraying.