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THE SITUATION ROOM

Remembering Connecticut Victims

Aired December 17, 2012 - 18:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Heartbroken families cling to one another, as survivors say goodbye.

The first young victims of the elementary school massacre are buried and the grief is overwhelming.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's everything you can imagine, plus some. It's worse.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: I'm Wolf Blitzer here in Newtown, Connecticut.

The state's governor said there no words to describe the pain of parents burying their children, let alone children who were killed in such a horrific act of violence; 6-year-olds Jack Pinto into and Noah Pozner are the first victims of the elementary school shooting to be laid to rest.

There will be two dozen more burials just as gut-wrenching as the ones here today. Meantime, police are learning more about the gunman, Adam Lanza.

CNN's Deborah Feyerick, is following the latest on the investigation for us.

Deb, what are you learning?

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: What we can tell you is within the last half-hour, four unmarked police cars with detectives pulled out of the Lanza home.

There had been lights on in the ground floor just in the corner room. Those lights now off, the shades drawn across the home. In this particular area, we have passed a couple of homes that have squad cars in front of them, patrol cars that are in front of them. We believe those are homes that some of the victims.

Lanza's home is still considered a crime scene. A law enforcement source tells us they were able to recover pieces of a smashed computer. That computer now being analyzed by law enforcement folks who are able to retrieve a lot of data. They are looking, for example, at e-mails and they want to know what Web sites he visited and who he may have come into contact with and why he may have chosen this particular school to carry out the massacre. The details of Adam Lanza, they are very sketchy, but they are starting to come together.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FEYERICK (voice-over): Adam Lanza moved into this house in Newtown when he was about 6 years old, the same age as some of the first graders he is accused of killing. Police say did not go to Sandy Hook Elementary School. However, a woman interviewed by CNN said her child and Adam Lanza had been classmates there in the first and third grades.

Police are still searching for a connection as to why he chose to carry out this massacre there last week. Little is known about Adam Lanza, but as a gawky high school freshman in 2007, Lanza seemed so vulnerable, the former school security director told at Newtown High School tells CNN he warned his school officers to keep an eye on the child so he would not be picked on or bullied.

Lanza was also assigned a school psychologist, says as the security director. Though Lanza joined the tech club, he remained withdrawn. At 2008, at age 16, Lanza enrolled as a student at Western Connecticut State University about 15 minutes from his home, taking among other classes, German, computer science, American history and macroeconomics.

He dropped out in 2009 and did not return. When Lanza's high school friend ran into Nancy Lanza a few years ago, he said the mom described Adam as doing really well in college. She also apparently told him he had taken up shooting as a hobby and liked to go to the gun range.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FEYERICK: It's unclear whether Adam Lanza was continuing his education. However, CNN learned his mother confided to a friend that this was likely her last winter here in Newtown, Connecticut. She wanted to go someplace where he could go to college. She was actually looking to go right cross-country to Washington state, possibly putting him in courses there.

He is described as a genius, incredibly smart and some of his friends who talk about him say while he was very, very quiet and very shy, once you got him to open up, he seemed to joke. He sort of enjoyed being in that company, but again extremely withdrawn. Investigators hoping they can piece together some of the information on that computer. They have described it as seizing some very good evidence. What that evidence is, when Connecticut State Police are ready to release it, they will hold a press conference -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Deborah Feyerick, for that.

Schools here in Newtown, Connecticut, will reopen tomorrow except for the Sandy Hook Elementary School and for good reason, Kate.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: And for good reason, but they are looking for a temporary makeshift school. I spoke with officials about how they will try to make that happen. After the horror of Friday, no one wants to send the children back into Sandy Hook Elementary, but at the same time they are searching for a sense of normalcy for the children. That when it comes to school -- that is when the town of Monroe stepped in.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BOLDUAN (voice-over): Truckloads filled with everything from desks to bulletin boards leaving Sandy Hook Elementary, heading here to the neighboring town of Monroe.

(on camera): Book cases that's --

STEVE VAVREK, MONROE, CONNECTICUT FIRST SELECTMAN: That's the students' materials, the backpacks that they left. When the children come in, whenever the school is started, they walk into a classroom that is as close as possible as their classroom that they left.

BOLDUAN (voice-over): Steve Vavrek is the town's chief executive. He said as soon as he heard about the horror at Sandy Hook, he offered up Chalk Hill Middle School. It's empty because it closed recently. Vavrek met with some of the students and teachers at Sunday's vigil.

VAVREK: Most of them were very thankful they had a chance to go back to work. The children and the teachers were -- it was emotional.

BOLDUAN: All day, contractors from around the region donated their time to transform this former middle school into an elementary school.

JIM AGOSTINE, SUPERINTENDENT, MONROE PUBLIC SCHOOL: Just to give you a sense. The toilets all have to be replaced to a smaller size. You know, things have to be made accessible. Towel dispensers, things like that, lowered.

BOLDUAN: Jim Agostine is Monroe's school superintendent.

(on camera): Why is it so important to get the students of Sandy Hook into a building like Chalk Hill and back in their classroom?

AGOSTINE: Well, that's exactly the sense of normalcy that they need to begin the healing process and to feel safe and protected and to get back into a routine.

BOLDUAN (voice-over): One change every parent will notice at schools across the area after Sandy Hook, police patrol.

(on camera): Is that a protective measure? Is that the new normal? Or is that more a way to help families and students alleviate some anxiety as they return to class?

AGOSTINE: All of the above. All of the above. Unfortunately, it may be the new normal. It may be the way we have to take course, take action in the future. (END VIDEOTAPE)

BOLDUAN: There is no official date for the students to start at Chalk Hill Middle School. It will now be an elementary school.

But officials in Monroe say the building itself, all the upgrades and all the technology upgrades, and everything that needs to be done as well as inspections and even the fire marshal being in there, that could be done as early as tomorrow, which is amazing when you think of what a massive undertaking it is logistically to pull this off.

But then it will be up to Newtown school officials to decide when they want to bring the children back in. I should add, Wolf, just today, the governor signed an executive order to really just cut through the red tape and to eliminate any hurdles they needed to jump over in order to make it happen so they could transfer over to Chalk Hill very easily. He signed that executive order today.

BLITZER: Last time we need any bureaucracy. We have got to deal with these little kids

BOLDUAN: Exactly.

BLITZER: I have been here since Friday night and Kate has been here since Friday night as well. We have seen so much pain and we have also seen a lot of strength.

BOLDUAN: Where you should see holiday decorations right now, we are seeing makeshift memorials in honor of the massacre victims.

Let's bring in Mary Snow.

Mary, you have been some doing great work and you have been traveling around town talking to folks. What are you hearing?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate, this is the largest public memorial here in the heart of Newtown.

Take a look. This started out with candles lit for the victims. It just keeps growing and growing. You may hear music in the background. That is a college group who drove up here from Florida and they have been singing hymns and playing music. You see everything from teddy bears to flowers and LEGOs. You might see the white ornaments.

This is from a couple. This is their wedding gift from Japan. They brought this and hung it here. Just about everywhere you go, you are seeing these makeshift memorials.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SNOW (voice-over): Angels line one roadway in remembrance of each victim. Along the highway, flags fly in their honor. There are signs of support everywhere. This quaint town has come to symbolize a nightmare. For the town's local paper, "The Newtown Bee," before last Friday the big recent headline was a vandalized cemetery. Now thrust into a worldwide spotlight, Newtown, Connecticut's, normally quiet Main Street is packed with media and outsiders.

That's why Kevin Yacko tried to do something away from the crowds in town. He hung a huge flag belonging to his son, a disabled veteran.

KEVIN YACKO, NEWTOWN, CONNECTICUT: My son served in Afghanistan. And when we came home, he wanted the flags. So, we had the means to fly it at certain occasions and it's for my son.

SNOW: Under this flag, a makeshift memorial grew.

YACKO: We came here yesterday around 11:00 and set the flag up for the people of Newtown. And people just started dropping off teddy bears and gifts and flowers for the families, donations for the funerals. We have been dropping the money off to St. Rose Church. And it just keeps growing.

SNOW: At the nearby Blue Colony Diner, black mourning ribbons are hung all around. The diner has become a spot where people are coming for comfort over food.

WAYNE FERRIS, BLUE COLONY DINER: It's become a meeting place for grieving families and friends and relatives and even passersby have been coming in and sharing their grief and sorrow.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SNOW: The diner manager we spoke with said he has been getting calls from all over the country, people calling and saying they want to pay for meals for families of victims, for first-responders. He says he often just picks up the phone and there is crying on the other end of the line.

We also found a toy store in town. It's the only toy store and the owner said that she has gotten calls from people around the country wanting to make donations and has been really surprised by the outpouring and really touched by the outpouring from people around the country -- Kate, Wolf.

BLITZER: These emotions are so raw right now. Thanks, Mary, for that report.

Sanjay Gupta is joining us right now.

Sanjay, I know you have been out. You were working on something very special that you are going to be sharing with our viewers later this hour.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: We tend to look at a lot of these previous tragedies in hindsight, obviously.

But the question a lot of people have, is there clues, are things that people can do proactively or recognize proactively? That is tough, as you might imagine. But there are some things specifically and if you look throughout history what characterizes some of these people that have been involved with the tragedies, that's what we decided to focus on. It turns out there are some very specific things.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: You have sort of some common threads?

GUPTA: Some common threads. Again there obviously are no rules when it comes to this sort of stuff. Thankfully, despite what we have been talking about, these are still few and far between in terms of numbers.

It's a hard thing to study. But I have talked to a few people today who are experts in this particular area and they talk about the fact that people hardly ever snap, so to speak. That's come up quite a bit. You just have to know specifically where to look and what the patterns are. That's what we have been focusing on today.

BLITZER: If there is more research, maybe we can prevent these tragedies down the road. Is that what I'm hearing from you?

GUPTA: Yes, exactly.

This is in the context of a mental health system that is under- resourced, and difficult to get people into. But one thing I think is very interesting as well and we will talk about this a little bit more, is the idea of medication. When you give medications, certain medications, there vulnerable times when you are starting and when you're taking a patient off the medication. These are times when you can actually induce particular psychosis, loss of touch with reality, decreased judgment and increased impulsivity.

These are particular areas when people really need to be monitored. Again this is not casting blame, but when we look at the mental health system overall, you can barely get in, in the first place. How do you monitor them after taking the medications? It's a difficult thing to do.

BOLDUAN: Why do you think when we look at these things in hindsight that is absolutely right and do you think -- where do you think the major issue is in terms of diagnosing mental illness and getting people into the mental health system? Because we always talk about this after every single tragedy.

GUPTA: Yes. It always seems like we are talking about this in hindsight.

Let me tell you one thing I have learned that may be a little surprising, and it's people seem to think the signs were ignored. That's hardly ever the case actually. Families often do recognize the signs and loved ones and neighbors. And they anguish over it. The problem is then doing the next step.

The threshold for getting people into some sort of in-patient thing is usually if they are imminent harm to themselves or to others. That's the threshold and that means -- that's the crisis situation.

(CROSSTALK) GUPTA: They're like having a heard attack, particularly, or a physical problem. That's too late, as you know. You have to be able to treat the people earlier. It's not so much the signs not being recognized. They're being recognized. The system has failed in some of these situations.

BLITZER: We heard the president last night say mental health. We got to deal with this in a really smart, sophisticated, up-front way, which unfortunately we are not yet doing.

(CROSSTALK)

GUPTA: The fact that you're talking about it, we're all talking about it decreases some of the stigma, which is a very important barrier as well.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Your full report later this hour.

Sanjay, thank you.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Some emergency officials here in Newtown are paying tribute to the victims of the school massacre, children they desperately hoped to save, but they couldn't. We will hear from a firefighter.

BOLDUAN: Also, will President Obama live up to his promise to the people of Newtown and the nation to try to prevent future shooting tragedies?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: As the first young victims of the school massacre are buried here in Connecticut, the cries are growing louder for new federal gun control measures. Some believe this could be a turning point in the entire gun debate in America if -- if the president of the United States follows through on his call to action.

Let's go to the White House.

Our correspondent Brianna Keilar has the latest. What is going on, Brianna?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, I'm not sure if you noticed, but President Obama has not even uttered the word gun in his public comments since the shooting on Friday.

So far, gun rights advocates have stayed out of this debate, but gun control advocates have not. They say the president is missing an opportunity to outline specific gun control measures because they say public interest in this is high on an issue that has not been a priority for President Obama or Congress in recent years.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KEILAR (voice-over): President Obama promised Sunday in Newtown to take action.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: In the coming weeks, I will use whatever power this office holds to engage my fellow citizens, from law enforcement, to mental health professionals, to parents and educators, in an effort aimed at preventing more tragedies like this.

KEILAR: But he gave no specifics. Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein wants to ban semiautomatic weapons.

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: He is going to have a bill to lead on because as a first day bill, I am going to introduce in the Senate and the same bill will be introduced in the House, a bill to ban assault weapons.

KEILAR: Far from taking the lead, the White House won't say if the president will even support the bill. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney did not endorse the measure, though he reiterated the president's past support for the ban.

That irks a number of Democrats who support gun control, including New York Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy, whose husband died and son was injured when a shooter opened fired on a Long Island train in 1993.

REP. CAROLYN MCCARTHY (D), NEW YORK: When the White House, Carney came out and basically said this was not a time to talk about gun violence and gun legislation, I called the White House and it was like, what are you talking about? We should have been talking about this years ago.

KEILAR: McCarthy and others, including New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, say now is the time to act while the American public is paying attention to this tragedy. After past shootings, Congress' appetite to act on gun violence has waned quickly.

(on camera): Isn't it more likely that people retreat to their corners, which say you don't want to see, the farther out from this event?

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: It is hard to think about 20 6- and 7-year-olds and what happened to them on Friday and imagine that in a few weeks or a few months that pain would not still be incredibly intense and present.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KEILAR: Now, polls show that Americans' attitudes towards restrictions on guns haven't really wavered when it comes to other recent shootings, Arizona, Colorado and Wisconsin, Wolf, but a new poll out, an ABC News/"Washington Post" poll, shows that the public is responding to this shooting in Connecticut differently. And 44 percent of those polled strongly support stricter gun laws and that is up from 39 percent in August and 5 percent fewer are strongly opposed to those restrictions, Wolf. But the question is will that be enough and will it last and will it give fuel to those gun control advocates?

BLITZER: Brianna, thanks very much.

Kate, listening to the president and watching him get emotional, I think he is going to try. I don't know if he will succeed, but I think he will try in his second term to do something about gun control.

BOLDUAN: He absolutely left the impression that that was his goal and that will be one of his focuses, absolutely.

BLITZER: He had a lot of other stuff in his first term, but he's going to try.

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: This has quickly become a priority, I think.

Still ahead, people from across the nation are sending gifts for the makeshift memorials here in Newtown. So many memorials continue to pop up. CNN's Brooke Baldwin caught up with a first-responder who was delivering Christmas wreaths from Oregon and, as Brooke discovered, he has quite a story to tell.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BOLDUAN: We want to continue honoring the victims of this tragedy.

Josephine Gay enjoyed riding her bike and selling lemonade in the neighborhood in the summertime. Her favorite color was purple.

And Catherine Hubbard is being remembered for her bright red hair, her constant smile, her love of sports and her compassion for animals.

And Charlotte Bacon was sweet, outgoing and full of energy with a mass of beautiful red curls. She loved school and she loved dresses.

So adorable and so sad.

More glimpses of youngsters with so much promise gunned down and gone forever.

BLITZER: Everyone here in Newtown, Connecticut, is devastated, everyone, including of course the emergency officials who were the first to arrive on the scene.

Brooke Baldwin is back with us.

Brooke, you just came back from a moving, moving conversation. BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, guys.

Yes, we just talked to two volunteer firefighters with the Newtown Hook and Ladder and they were talking to us about -- you know firefighters. They tried to use humor to defuse situations. They were talking about the truckfuls, literally truckfuls and garbage bag fulls of teddy bears they have been getting from people across the country that they have at least been able to distribute to some of the kids in the community to put some smiles on faces in a very trying time.

But I ran across another firefighter earlier today in the midst of many wreaths. I saw them unpacking wreath after wreath after wreath. I said, where is this coming from? He said someone in Portland, Oregon. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: How many wreaths are there?

JEFFREY THOMAS, FIREFIGHTER: Twenty-six.

BALDWIN: Twenty-six wreaths. So where -- did they get sent to the firehouse?

THOMAS: They were sent to the firehouse through UPS.

BALDWIN: Did you know they were coming?

THOMAS: No. No, they were -- the truck pulled up and she says, I have a delivery of 26 wreaths. We unloaded them all. We figured we would come up with a place to put them. Try to keep them all together and they got shipped all the way from Oregon.

BALDWIN: How long have you been here?

THOMAS: Since Friday.

BALDWIN: Where are you based out of?

THOMAS: The Sandy Hook Firehouse.

BALDWIN: How long have you been at the firehouse?

THOMAS: Well, we're going home tonight to sleep, but...

BALDWIN: Years.

THOMAS: Years, since high school. I'm 38.

BALDWIN: Since high school. You're 38.

THOMAS: Yes.

BALDWIN: Did you ever in a million years think you would be experiencing this in your little town? THOMAS: Nobody in this town ever would think that, yes.

BALDWIN: Where were you when you heard?

THOMAS: Working. I work across town. We saw the helicopters.

BALDWIN: When you saw the helicopters, what did you think it was?

THOMAS: Not on the scale it was. One or two. We heard the principal at first, and as time went on, we got the reports. We just didn't believe it. We came down the road. It was just all surreal. Seeing all the cars. All this, it's tough.

BALDWIN: Where did you go once you saw the cars? Straight to the firehouse?

THOMAS: Yes, straight to the firehouse. And from there we just -- haven't left.

BALDWIN: Help us around the world understand what you as a first-responder are going through.

THOMAS: Sadness, anger, guilt in some aspects.

BALDWIN: Why guilt? What could you have done?

THOMAS: Exactly. I mean, we're having counseling as a group.

BALDWIN: Can I get your first and last name?

THOMAS: Name's Jeffrey Thomas.

BALDWIN: Jeffrey Thomas? Since high school.

THOMAS: Since high school.

BALDWIN: Just finally, what do you make of the wreaths, just people you don't know sending you all these wreaths to put up in your town? What would you say to the people of Portland, Oregon?

THOMAS: Thank you. It makes us feel warm to know that this is -- it is amazing that people that far away care about us.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: In this conversation I had with these two other firefighters just this last hour, I said, what will Newtown look like in a month? Once we are gone, once the quiet returns? And he said, scarred. He said we will never be the same. We will never be Newtown, that town you have to explain that is just near Danbury, sort of near Hartford.

You say Newtown, Connecticut, now and people know exactly where it is. But he says they will move on, but he was just -- really it's the images of these parents at the firehouse and some of them retrieving their kids and it was the parents left without the children. I saw tears in eyes tonight and that's the image that they will never forget.

BOLDUAN: I will tell you the one thing -- and I know you have noticed it as well -- we have talked about it -- I'm sure you have noticed it as well -- one thing I know I will take away when we go and when we leave is the sense of community, of how people have just come together.

One person said to me, I know we will be remembered as Newtown, where this massacre happened, but I also want to be remembered as this being a town where the community fought back, fought to be remembered for something other than this tragedy.

BALDWIN: It's incredible, and not just people within the town, people all around Connecticut.

You saw even Governor Malloy breaking down into tears earlier.

BOLDUAN: Yes.

BALDWIN: People around the world reaching out to this town.

BOLDUAN: A lot of strength, though, right, Wolf?

BLITZER: It looks like you are getting emotional. All of us are getting emotional right now.

BALDWIN: We all are. We all are.

BLITZER: Understandably so. All right. Good report. Thank you.

BALDWIN: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: There have been many breakthroughs in medical science. But what have we learned about what goes on inside the minds of serial killers? Our own Dr .Sanjay Gupta who is a neurosurgeon, he's standing by, he's got a new report. You're going to want to see this. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Connecticut's governor is calling for a moment of silence this coming Friday morning exactly one week after the unthinkable happened in this small community of Newtown, Connecticut. Twenty-six bells will toll, one for each person killed at the Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Governor Dan Malloy getting very emotional today when he talked about the process of telling parents that their children were dead.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. DANNEL MALLOY (D), CONNECTICUT: It was evident to me that there was a reluctance to tell parents and loved ones that the person that they were waiting for was not going to return. And that had gone on for a period of time, well after there was any expectancy that families would be reunited.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: The wounds are still so, so fresh. Two of the slain children, 6 years old, Noah Pozner and Jack Pinto, were buried today, the first of the massacre victims to be laid to rest. And as the investigation moves forward, a law enforcement official tells CNN that computers in the home of gunman Adam Lanza had been mashed and authorities gathered the broken parts hoping to find some clues -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Anderson Cooper is helping us cover this horrendous story.

Anderson, you had a chance today to speak with parents of one of the victims?

ANDERSON COOPER, ANCHOR, AC 360: Yes. Lynn and Chris McDonnell, they actually reached out to us late last night after our broadcast, after watching our broadcast, and they wanted to talk about their daughter, Grace, who was one of the children killed.

Sixteen kids in her class, only 15 survived. Grace did not. And -- I mean, they, Lynn and Chris are incredibly strong and they have another son -- a son named Jack who's 12. And we obviously did not interview him. But they wanted people to know about Grace. We're all going to be playing a lot of that tonight on "360", and that's actually how we're going to lead off the broadcast. Because they want people to remember their daughter as they remember her, not just how she died, but how she lived her life.

And also one of the things that Lynn and Chris talked to me about just a few -- about an hour ago is how they don't want their son hating anybody involved in this shooting. And how it's OK to be angry, but they don't want their son to feel hate. I talked to Lynn about that a little bit earlier. Let's watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LYNN MCDONNELL, MOTHER OF GRACE MCDONNELL: I had said that to Jack that it's OK to be angry because sure, we have anger and we are upset and we don't know why, but I told Jack that he could never live with hate. Grace didn't have an ounce of hate in her. And so we have to live through Grace and realize that hate is not how our family is. And not -- certainly not how Grace is. And I know all those beautiful little children, they didn't have any hate in them either. So we'll just take the lead from them and we will not go down that road, but we will let them guide us.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: They weren't able to see Grace. They were warned not to see her, but they went to the funeral home and they told us that the little casket was white. And they brought magic markers and she and her husband and son Jack used those magic markers and basically Jack said they graffitied the casket, but they basically painted all the things on the casket that Grace loved. And they left -- when they left that funeral home yesterday, they said there wasn't any white left on the casket. Everything was colored in. That's the way Grace would have wanted it.

BLITZER: Yes. I've -- other tragedies I've covered, I'm sure you have as well, a lot of parents, they want the world to know about their child.

COOPER: Yes.

BLITZER: Who was needlessly killed.

COOPER: Yes.

BOLDUAN: How they know their child.

COOPER: Yes. And I want to emphasize, you know, we're being very respectful. I am not knocking on anybody's doors. They contacted us. Because they really do want people to understand what they have lost. And what the world has lost. This bright little girl who had her entire future ahead of us and -- ahead of her and last -- you know, they met obviously with President Obama just yesterday.

BOLDUAN: Right.

COOPER: They gave him a drawing that Grace had done of an owl and that they gave me a copy of it as well and President Obama said he would cherish it and put it up in the White House and also put it up in my office or my home. And they're just incredible family and their strength, I think, is something that will really inspire a lot of people.

BOLDUAN: And I mean, when you watch that, just that, I mean, I can't wait to see the rest of it.

COOPER: Yes.

BOLDUAN: When we watch that, I'm amazed at their strength.

COOPER: Yes.

BOLDUAN: I mean, they have lost their daughter just days ago.

COOPER: It's extraordinary how strong they are being. You know, and look, they're very frank. There's ups and downs and it comes like a wave at times. And there's -- you know, there's incredibly tough moments and then there's moments where they take comfort and strength in their little girl, and the memories they have of her. And Lynn looks at a lot of pictures of Grace, they have pictures all around the house. And they're just -- they're a beautiful family and we're going to really honor Grace tonight.

BLITZER: 8:00 p.m. Eastern we'll be watching.

COOPER: Thanks.

BOLDUAN: Little Grace. Thanks, Anderson.

BLITZER: Anderson, thanks very, very much.

As the first of what will be many funeral services get under way here in Connecticut, makeshift memorials are popping up all over Newtown.

CNN's Don Lemon is joining us now from -- just one of them. A short distance from where we are right now.

Don, these heartfelt gestures have a way of bringing home the magnitude of this tragedy. Don't they?

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, absolutely. You can see the -- this Mission Group band still playing for NAFPS, National Association for Further Prevention of Starvation. They were in Florida -- they're from Alabama. They were on a mission in Florida and came down.

I want to talk to some of the folks who are here. This is Rory and Richard out here, and also Linda.

Where are you guys from?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tumble.

LEMON: From Tumble. Why did you guys come out?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because I needed to show respect for the families for this tragedy. That's the main reason why I came here.

LEMON: Yes. And you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I needed to come out for myself, too. It's been bad. It's been tough.

LEMON: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I really wanted to see to try to really help myself.

LEMON: Why will it help you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know. Just get the emotion -- just get the emotion out.

LEMON: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's seemed my chance to do. It's hard to get out. So help seeing this and all the warmth and love that's here is very nice.

LEMON: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And people from all over the country are here. I think that's outstanding.

LEMON: And, Linda, you've been out here for a while. You guys have been on for -- out here for a while. So many people have come up and we can barely get inside now. They're having to direct people around this memorial which is moving further and further and further, closer to the street.

LINDA: Yes, and I'm from Monroe. So I'm very close to here. And I felt like I wanted to come because I work with victims of domestic violence. With children who are victims of domestic violence. And they are the most innocent -- they are so innocent and we have an obligation to protect them. And that's why I'm here.

LEMON: Well, thank you very much. I don't know if you guys can hear it, but the people are singing on the other side here. People come over and they sing, they pray, they hug, Wolf. And they just love each other and as you hear, these guys, Rich and Rory and Linda, saying it is awesome. And it is awesome to see this and it's awesome to see that at least there is some hope in this community that things will one day get back to normalcy. But that won't be any time soon, we know, Wolf.

BLITZER: No. It's going to be a while. Don, thanks very much.

You know, these reports he's bringing us from these makeshift memorials that are so, so powerful. You and I have walked around.

BOLDUAN: Yes.

BLITZER: We've seen them. People just come over to us and they --

BOLDUAN: Just talk.

BLITZER: Yes.

BOLDUAN: And that's wonderful. I mean it's -- everyone is healing together.

BLITZER: Yes. All right. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Dr. Sanjay Gupta is back with us. Our chief medical correspondent.

Sanjay, you've been doing a lot of research and you know a lot about this to begin with. But you've been doing a lot more over the past few days. How quickly will these kids feel safe enough to go back to school, the 600 kids at that elementary school which was attacked Friday morning?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I'll prep this by saying, obviously there's no hard and fast rules. And any expert will say that. But, you know, I have been talking to a lot of people and seeing some consistencies and earlier the better seems to be a mantra that I keep hearing.

You know, the kids are going to feel different levels of safety and that's in part in terms of how much they were exposed to this violence and what they really saw. But the earlier the better, as soon as you can sort of establish that normalcy, it seems, to make a difference. And you can -- you can help accelerate the feelings of safety. So, you know, every child can be a little bit different, but that seems to be something that is consistent.

BOLDUAN: It's so interesting because that was one of the questions raised today when I was working on how they're transitioning into this new kind of temporary school. And some were asking, if they're only back for a day before they go on holiday break, why would you even do that?

GUPTA: Right. Right. And I think that's the exact point, is that you really don't want to waste any time. You can literally draw trajectories between establishing of normalcy and long-term outcome. And the quicker you establish that normalcy the better in terms of long-term out come.

Just a quick frame of reference, Columbine, that happened in April and so it's near the end of the school year. They kept the school close. They didn't open them up until after the summer break in August. That was a decision that was made in Colorado at that time. So every community is going to handle it differently. Obviously those are older kids, as well, but the sooner the better.

BLITZER: The parents are going to feel anxious for a long time to come as well. I mean they come to you and they say Dr. Gupta, what should we do.

GUPTA: These are young kids and so again different than some other situations. This is an unprecedented situation in some ways, check your own feelings first is -- you know, you've got to feel anxious, parents are going to feel anxious.

The key that I keep hearing is not to encumber a child that you try to provide support with with your own feelings. I mean if it's tough, and probably easier said than done, but really making sure that you listen, that you fill in details as appropriate. But really let them do talking. Instead of saying, you know, I'm going to sit down and tell you everything that happened, don't do that.

First, find out what they already know. They probably are going to know some things, maybe even that you don't realize they know. So that --

BLITZER: Some parents will say to you, you know, or say to a doctor, I think I need some medication. I mean what do they do in a situation like that?

GUPTA: Sometimes medication is necessary. And you know my -- I mean we've talked enough about this to know that I'm not someone who advocates that regularly, but I'll tell you sleep, Wolf, we've talked about this yesterday, is such a key. BLITZER: What if they can't -- what if you can't sleep if you're so nervous, you give them Ambien, you give them some sort of medication to help them sleep.

GUPTA: Yes, and anti-anxiety medication or something to relax, and even sleeping medication, sometimes that is necessary for the adults certainly, you know. And sometimes for kids as well. But, you know, if you can -- if you can get these children good sleep especially in these early nights, it's very, very important. Medication hopefully is not necessary because these are powerful meds especially for these young children. But you've got to make sure that, you know, you're addressing that very important aspect.

BLITZER: Sanjay, thanks very, very much. Thanks for everything you've been telling our viewers as well.

The man who knew the Lanza family said Nancy Lanza picked up her gun hobby just recently. He spoke with CNN's Erin Burnett. She's standing by to join us next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Erin Burnett is here with me in Connecticut as well.

Erin, you had a chance to speak today with some folks who actually knew the shooter's mother?

ERIN BURNETT, ANCHOR, ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT: Yes, a restaurant called My Place which you may have seen driving around here, Wolf, in one of the malls. And it's sort of a local joint where people go. And Nancy Lanza went there two to three times a week to get take-out, sometimes to have a beer, and she got to know the family that owns it. And we had a chance to talk to them about what she was like and said she was generous. They talked about how funny she was. And she was the kind of person who at a bar would just -- be telling a story if something was wrong in their life and she'd say, here's the money. And that she was that kind of person. And then I asked them where she'd ever talked about her gun hobby. And they also -- they also said, yes, she had. Here's what they said about that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: One of the things we've heard a lot about her was that she was, you know, passionate about guns, she collected guns. Is that something that you knew about or were surprised when you hear?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would say in the last three years or so she picked up that hobby. I don't know who got her into it, but she really enjoyed it. She probably had, you know, some guns that she used to take to the range and practice with. I didn't know -- I don't know what she owned or what she has. We don't know if she took her son, didn't take her son. She didn't talk about it that much. She was just --

BURNETT: Right.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know? All right. I took this up, it's fun. You know, that kind of thing.

BURNETT: And given, though, that you knew her as a person.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

BURNETT: Would you -- do you think she's the kind of person who would have the guns around the house? Would they have been locked up?

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They would have been locked up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She's far too bright for that. She was very smart.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: The question about the guns, Wolf, why she had them, why she would take her son to a shooting range, those are of course questions we don't yet have the answers to. We're starting to get a little bit more color on who she was and why she liked what she liked so we'll have that interview as part of our show tonight.

BLITZER: And you're going to have a lot more coming up at the top of the hour as well.

BURNETT: Yes. Yes. We're going to be talking to some other neighbors. One woman whose 11-year-old daughter, two of her friends lost her their younger sister, lost their younger siblings so.

BLITZER: It's a tough story for all of us to cover. How are you doing?

BURNETT: You know, it's hard. As you feel out here, you just sort of feel the hole and then you see the people who live here and the great hole that they have as sort of the international media takes so much space in this small town. It's hard as we try to do our jobs, too.

BLITZER: And people just come up to us and they want to tell their stories. You've got good experience as well.

BURNETT: Yes. Yes.

BLITZER: We'll see you in a few minutes. Erin, thanks.

BURNETT: All right, thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: Twelve girls, eight boys, six women. The numbers only begin to tell the story. In just a minute, the names, the faces, the details of lives tragically cut short at the Sandy Hook Elementary School. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: That's it for me tonight. I'm Wolf Blitzer. "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts in just a minute, but we leave you right now with this tribute to the victims.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Let the little children come to me, Jesus said. And do not hinder them. For to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.

Charlotte, Daniel, Olivia.

JOHN ENGEL, COUSIN: She was an outgoing, she's a beautiful, outgoing child. Tennis lessons and her ballet and hip-hop dance and musical theater. She had a huge sense of humor. This was not a shy child.

OBAMA: Josephine. Ana. Dylan. Madeleine. Catherine. Chase. Jesse. James. Grace. Emilie.

ROBBIE PARKER, FATHER: Her love and the strength that she gave us and the example that she showed us is remarkable. She is an incredible person, and I'm so blessed to be her dad.

OBAMA: Jack. Noah.

VICTORIA HALLER, AUNT: Noah was extremely lively. He was really the light of the room. You know, he had a huge heart and he was so much fun. A little bit rambunctious. Lots of spirit.

OBAMA: Caroline. Jessica.

KRISTA REKOS, MOTHER: She was a ball of fire. She ruled the roost. She --

RICHARD REKOS, FATHER: Our little CEO, we called her. You know, she was -- she was the boss.

OBAMA: Benjamin. Avielle. Allison.

God has called them all home. For those of us who remain, let us find the strength to carry on and make our country worthy of their memory.

(END VIDEO CLIP)