The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

State and Nation

December 17, 2012

Neighbor took 6 young survivors into his home

— NEWTOWN, Conn. (AP) — Gene Rosen had just finished feeding his cats and was heading from his home near Sandy Hook Elementary school to a diner Friday morning when he saw six small children sitting in a neat semicircle at the end of his driveway.

A school bus driver was standing over them, telling them things would be all right. It was about 9:30 a.m., and the children, he discovered, had just run from the school to escape a gunman.

"We can't go back to school," one little boy told Rosen. "Our teacher is dead. Mrs. Soto; we don't have a teacher."

Rosen, a 69-year-old retired psychologist, took the four girls and two boys into his home, and over the next few hours gave them toys, listened to their stories and called their frantic parents.

Rosen said he had heard the staccato sound of gunfire about 15 minutes earlier but had dismissed it as an obnoxious hunter in the nearby woods.

"I had no idea what had happened," Rosen said. "I couldn't take that in."

He walked the children past his small goldfish pond with its running waterfall, and the garden he made with his two grandchildren, into the small yellow house he shares with his wife.

He ran upstairs and grabbed an armful of stuffed animals. He gave those to the children, along with some fruit juice, and sat with them as the two boys described seeing their teacher being shot.

Victoria Soto, 27, was a first-grade teacher killed when 20-year-old Adam Lanza burst into her classroom. It wasn't clear how the children escaped harm, but there have been reports that Soto hid some of her students from the approaching gunman. The six who turned up at Rosen's home did apparently have to run past her body to safety.

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