It was a quiet December morning on Friday at the state Capitol.
State officials were working in their offices, and most of the top leaders in the building – Gov. Dannel Malloy, Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman, incoming House Speaker J. Brendan Sharkey, Senate President Pro Tem Donald Williams, and House Republican leader Larry Cafero – all planned on joining together at a Christmas luncheon starting at noon in the Capitol.
U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, who was back in Connecticut on Friday morning from Washington, D.C., also planned to attend the luncheon.
But at 9:41 a.m., the first 911 call came into the police about a shooting at the Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown. Minutes later, a plainclothes state trooper who is a member of the security detail walked into Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman\’s office and said there had been a shooting in Newtown.
The initial details were sketchy, but then the news became progressively worse as the minutes passed. Before long, Malloy, Wyman, and Blumenthal canceled their plans for the luncheon and headed to Newtown. All three appeared at two press briefings at 3:30 p.m. and 6 p.m. in Newtown. Both Malloy and Blumenthal spoke at about 7:30 p.m. at a vigil in Newtown, which was televised nationally on CNN.
Out of respect for the families of 28 people killed Friday, Malloy, Wyman, and Blumenthal all declined interviews for this story.
\”I started out the day and never thought that at 3 p.m., I\’d be watching the President of the United States talking about a mass murder in Connecticut,\’\’ said one Capitol insider in Hartford, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. \”Unbelievable.\’\’
As the original reports said only that one person had been shot in the foot, Blumenthal went ahead with a press conference at 10 a.m. at Simsbury town hall regarding military dogs who work for the Department of Defense.
As the day wore on, more details came out. Legislators were stunned and shocked upon hearing the news.
When he was told that 27 people were dead, Cafero covered his mouth in an immediate, reflexive reaction. Williams sat down after hearing the news.
\”It exponentially grew by the minute,\’\’ the insider said. \”Things ramped up very quickly.\’\’
At the 6 p.m. press briefing in Newtown, Malloy spoke for about three minutes on live television.
“Their [victims’] day ended in a very different way than any of us could have possibly imagined … and still can’t imagine, what transpired there,\’\’ Malloy said. “Evil visited this community today. It’s too early to speak of recovery, but each parent, each sibling, each member of the family has to understand that Connecticut, we’re all in this together, we’ll do whatever we can to overcome this event. We will get through it, but this is a terrible time for this community and these families.”
Malloy then recalled the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
\”I was mayor of Stamford on 9/11 when our state lost many of its citizens, and I lost a number of my fellow citizens and friends,\’\’ Malloy said. \”I never thought that in a public career that I would have to face these kinds of circumstances, or that they would visit themselves on this community or the people of Connecticut.”
He added, \”Our prayers at this time have to go out tot he families. … The number 1 way to be helpful is to say a prayer or send a best wish or to be thinling of these individuals who have suffered so mightily today.”
Numerous activities and meetings were canceled and needed to be rescheduled. Christmas parties, for example, that were scheduled at the governor\’s mansion next week for the staff and for state troopers have been postponed.
Longtime House Republican spokesman Patrick O\’Neil, who grew up in Newtown, said it was the most tragic incident in the small town since the infamous \”Hell\’s Angels\’\’ shootout at the Sandy Hook Hotel at 109 Church Hill Road on July 31, 1975. Two men were killed in the original shootout, and the hotel owner was acquitted on the grounds of self-defense. The hotel owner, however, was killed about one year later when two men on motorcycles pulled up on either side of him at a traffic light and shot him dead.
\”It was a biker dispute,\’\’ O\’Neil said Friday. \”It was infamous.\’\’