Tragedy struck Newtown's Sandy Hook Elementary School Friday morning, as police confirmed that a gunman entered the school and opened fire. Police have placed the death toll thus far at 27 — 20 children, 6 adults, including the shooter, and one adult victim at a "secondary scene" in Connecticut.
For many in Manchester, the horrific news conjures memories of 2010's Hartford Distributors shooting in Manchester. Disgruntled employee Omar Thornton walked methodically through the beer distributors warehouse on Chapel Road one early morning in August, shooting 10 of his co-workers before turning the gun on himself; nine people died, including Thornton.
"We had something that we felt was a horrific incident in August of 2010, so obviously our hearts go out to the families and victims in Newtown," said Manchester General Manager Scott Shanley, adding that as a father himself he was speechless about Friday's events in Newtown.
Shanley said he could emphasize with public officials in Newtown — many of whom he knows — after 2010's Hartford Distributors incident, because people want to know immediately what's happening and what to do. But often times inaccurate information and rumors can spread faster than factual information. He said that public officials must strike a balance between disseminating information as quickly as possibly to the public while also insuring that it is accurate.
"In this age of instant communication, with so much information flowing, it can be difficult for people to understand that official information needs to be properly vetted and confirmed," Shanley said.
Shanley said that town and school officials have protocols in place to handle emergency situations, such as a reverse 911 dialing system that will call parents and residents in the event of an emergency, but that the town and the school system would likely revisit those in the aftermath of the Newtown shootings to ensure that they are up-to-date and cover all circumstances. Shanley declined to discuss those protocols in detail.
Interim Manchester Superintendent Richard Kisiel could not be reached for comment Friday.
"Being an employee of HDI it hits home all to well. Prayers to everyone in Newtown tonight," Karl Henderson wrote on Manchester Patch's Facebook page.
Impromptu vigils in support and solidarity of the Newtown victims have sprung up throughout the state. You can click here for an unofficial list of vigils compiled by WFSB.com. Several people in Manchester are trying to organize a similar memorial service in town through social media outlets and Manchester Patch's Facebook page.