- Associated Press - Sunday, December 16, 2012

Most died at the very start of their young lives, tiny victims taken in a way not fit for anyone regardless of age. Others found their life’s work in sheltering little ones, teaching them, caring for them, treating them as their own. After the gunfire ended Friday at Sandy Hook Elementary School, the trail of loss was more than many could bear: 20 students and six adults at the school, the gunman’s mother at home, and the gunman himself.

A glimpse of some of those who died:

Charlotte Bacon, 6

They were supposed to be for the holidays, but finally on Friday, after hearing much begging, Charlotte Bacon’s mother relented and let her wear her new pink dress and boots to school.

It was the last outfit the outgoing redhead would ever pick out. Charlotte’s older brother, Guy, was also in the school but was not shot.

Olivia Engel, 6

The images of Olivia Engel will live far beyond her short lifetime. There she is, visiting with Santa Claus, or feasting on a slice of birthday cake. There’s the one of her swinging a pink baseball bat, and another posing on a boat. In some, she models a pretty white dress; in others, she makes a silly face.

Dan Merton, a longtime friend of the girl’s family, says he could never forget the child, and he has much to say when he thinks of her.

“She loved attention,” he said. “She had perfect manners, perfect table manners. She was the teacher’s pet, the line leader.”

Dawn Hochsprung, 47, principal

Dawn Hochsprung’s pride in Sandy Hook Elementary was clear. She regularly tweeted photos from her time as principal there, giving indelible glimpses of life at a place now known for tragedy. Just this week, it was an image of fourth-graders rehearsing for their winter concert; days before that, the tiny hands of kindergartners exchanging play money at their makeshift grocery store.

Officials said she died while lunging at the gunman in an attempt to overtake him.

Madeleine Hsu, 6

Dr. Matthew Velsmid was at Madeleine’s house on Saturday, tending to her stricken family. He said the family did not want to comment.

Dr. Velsmid said that after hearing of the shooting, he went to the triage area to provide medical assistance but there were no injuries to treat.

“We were waiting for casualties to come out, and there was nothing. There was no need, unfortunately,” he said. “This is the darkest thing I’ve ever walked into, by far.”

Catherine Hubbard, 6

A family friend turned reporters away from the house, but Catherine’s parents released a statement expressing gratitude to emergency responders and for the support of the community.

“We are greatly saddened by the loss of our beautiful daughter, Catherine Violet and our thoughts and prayers are with the other families who have been affected by this tragedy,” Jennifer and Matthew Hubbard said. “We ask that you continue to pray for us and the other families who have experienced loss in this tragedy.”

Chase Kowalski, 7

Chase Kowalski was always outside, playing in the backyard, riding his bicycle. Just last week, he was visiting neighbor Kevin Grimes, telling him about completing — and winning — his first mini-triathlon.

“You couldn’t think of a better child,” Mr. Grimes said.

Nancy Lanza, 52, gunman’s mother

She once was known simply for the game nights she hosted and the holiday decorations she put up at her house. Now Nancy Lanza is known as her son’s first victim.

Authorities say her 20-year-old son Adam gunned her down before killing 26 others at Sandy Hook. The two shared a home in a well-to-do Newtown neighborhood.

A neighbor, Rhonda Cullens, said she knew Nancy Lanza from get-togethers she had hosted to play Bunco, a dice game. “She was a very nice lady,” Ms. Cullens said.

Jesse Lewis, 6

Six-year-old Jesse Lewis had hot chocolate with his favorite breakfast sandwich — sausage, egg and cheese — at the neighborhood deli before going to school Friday morning.

Jesse and his parents were regulars at the Misty Vale Deli in Sandy Hook, Conn., owner Angel Salazar told The Wall Street Journal.

“He was always friendly; he always liked to talk,” Mr. Salazar said.

Ana Marquez-Greene, 6

A year ago, 6-year-old Ana Marquez-Greene was reveling in holiday celebrations with her extended family on her first trip to Puerto Rico. This year will be heartbreakingly different.

The girl’s grandmother, Elba Marquez, said the family moved to Connecticut just two months ago, drawn from Canada, in part, by Sandy Hook’s sterling reputation. The grandmother’s brother, Jorge Marquez, is mayor of a Puerto Rican town and said the child’s 9-year-old brother also was at the school but escaped safely.

A video spreading across the Internet shows a confident Ana hitting every note as she sings “Come, Thou Almighty King.” She flashes a big grin and waves to the camera when she’s done.

James Mattioli, 6

The upstate New York town of Sherrill is thinking of Cindy Mattioli, who grew up there and lost her son James in the school shooting in Connecticut.

“It’s a terrible tragedy, and we’re a tight community,” Mayor William Vineall told the Utica Observer-Dispatch. “Everybody will be there for them, and our thoughts and prayers are there for them.”

Anne Marie Murphy, 52, teacher

A happy soul. A good mother, wife and daughter. Artistic, fun-loving, witty and hardworking.

Remembering their daughter, Anne Marie Murphy, her parents had no shortage of adjectives to offer Newsday. When news of the shooting broke, Hugh and Alice McGowan waited for word of their daughter as hours ticked by. And then it came. Authorities told the couple their daughter was a hero who helped shield some of her students from the rain of bullets.

“You don’t expect your daughter to be murdered,” her father told the newspaper. “It happens on TV. It happens elsewhere.”

Emilie Parker, 6

Quick to cheer up those in need of a smile, Emilie Parker never missed a chance to draw a picture or make a card.

Her father, Robbie Parker, fought back tears as he described the beautiful, blond, always-smiling girl who loved to try new things, except foods.

Mr. Parker, one of the first parents to publicly talk about his loss, expressed no animosity for the gunman, even as he struggled to explain the death to his other two children, ages 3 and 4. He’s sustained by the fact that the world is better for having had Emilie in it. “I’m so blessed to be her dad,” he said.

Noah Pozner, 6

Noah was “smart as a whip,” gentle but with a rambunctious streak, said his uncle, Alexis Haller of Woodenville, Wash. Noah’s twin sister Arielle, assigned to a different classroom, survived the shooting. He called her his best friend, and with their 8-year-old sister, Sophia, they were inseparable.

“They were always playing together, they loved to do things together,” Mr. Haller said.

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.

“Lauren wanted to be a teacher from before she even went to kindergarten,” said her mother, Teresa Rousseau. “We will miss her terribly and will take comfort knowing that she had achieved that dream.”

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 Ms. Sherlach and the school’s principal ran toward the shooter. They lost their own lives, rushing toward him.

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.”

Associated Press writers Denise Lavoie, Mark Scolforo, Allen Breed and Danica Coto contributed to this report.