‘‘I can’t imagine a family that deserved this less,’’ he said.
JESSICA REKOS, 6
‘‘Jessica loved everything about horses,’’ her parents, Rich and Krista Rekos said in a statement. ‘‘She devoted her free time to watching horse movies, reading horse books, drawing horses, and writing stories about horses.’’
When she turned 10, they promised, she could have a horse of her own. For Christmas, she asked Santa for new cowgirl boots and hat.
The Rekoses described their daughter as ‘‘a creative, beautiful little girl who loved playing with her little brothers, Travis and Shane.
‘‘She spent time writing in her journals, making up stories, and doing ‘research’ on orca whales — one of her passions after seeing the movie ‘Free Willy’ last year.’’ Her dream of seeing a real orca was realized in October when she went to SeaWorld.
Jessica, first born in the family, ‘‘was our rock,’’ the parents said. ‘‘She had an answer for everything, she didn’t miss a trick, and she outsmarted us every time.’’ A thoughtful planner, she was ‘‘our little CEO.’’
LAUREN GABRIELLE ROUSSEAU, 30, teacher
Lauren Rousseau had spent years working as a substitute teacher and doing other jobs. So she was thrilled when she finally realized her goal this fall to become a full-time teacher at Sandy Hook.
Her mother, Teresa Rousseau, a copy editor at the Danbury News-Times, released a statement Saturday that said state police told them just after midnight that she was among the victims.
‘‘Lauren wanted to be a teacher from before she even went to kindergarten,’’ she said. ‘‘We will miss her terribly and will take comfort knowing that she had achieved that dream.’’
Her mother said she was thrilled to get the job.
‘‘It was the best year of her life,’’ she told the newspaper.
Rousseau has been called gentle, spirited and active. She had planned to see ‘‘The Hobbit’’ with her boyfriend Friday and had baked cupcakes for a party they were to attend afterward. She was born in Danbury, and attended Danbury High, college at the University of Connecticut and graduate school at the University of Bridgeport.
She was a lover of music, dance and theater.
‘‘I'm used to having people die who are older,’’ her mother said, ‘‘not the person whose room is up over the kitchen.’’
MARY SHERLACH, 56, school psychologist
When the shots rang out, Mary Sherlach threw herself into the danger.
Janet Robinson, the superintendent of Newtown Public Schools, said Sherlach and the school’s principal ran toward the shooter. They lost their own lives, rushing toward him.
Even as Sherlach neared retirement, her job at Sandy Hook was one she loved. Those who knew her called her a wonderful neighbor, a beautiful person, a dedicated educator.
Sherlach’s son-in-law, Eric Schwartz, told the South Jersey Times that Sherlach rooted on the Miami Dolphins, enjoyed visiting the Finger Lakes, relished helping children overcome their problems. She had planned to leave work early on Friday, he said, but never had the chance. In a news conference Saturday, he told reporters the loss was devastating, but that Sherlach was doing what she loved.
‘‘Mary felt like she was doing God’s work,’’ he said, ‘‘working with the children.’’
VICTORIA SOTO, 27, teacher
She beams in snapshots. Her enthusiasm and cheer was evident. She was doing, those who knew her say, what she loved.
And now, Victoria Soto is being called a hero.
Though details of the 27-year-old teacher’s death remained fuzzy, her name has been invoked again and again as a portrait of selflessness and humanity among unfathomable evil. Those who knew her said they weren’t surprised by reports she shielded her first-graders from danger.
‘‘She put those children first. That’s all she ever talked about,’’ said a friend, Andrea Crowell. ‘‘She wanted to do her best for them, to teach them something new every day.’’
Photos of Soto show her always with a wide smile, in pictures of her at her college graduation and in mundane daily life. She looks so young, barely an adult herself. Her goal was simply to be a teacher.
‘‘You have a teacher who cared more about her students than herself,’’ said Mayor John Harkins of Stratford, the town Soto hailed from and where more than 300 people gathered for a memorial service Saturday night. ‘‘That speaks volumes to her character, and her commitment and dedication.’’
BENJAMIN WHEELER, 6
Music surrounded Benjamin Wheeler as he grew up in a household where both his mother and father were performers. They left behind stage careers in New York City when they moved to Newtown with Benjamin and his older brother, Nate.Continued...