(NEWTOWN, Conn.) — President Obama will visit Newtown, Conn. Sunday to meet with the grieving families and thank the first responders from Friday’s school shooting, as the community begins the long process of healing.
The pictures of the young victims killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School emerged Saturday, along with a remarkable story of survival.
Twenty children and six adults were killed at the school when shooter Adam Lanza went on a shooting rampage.
Later this evening, the community will gather for an interfaith vigil, where the president is scheduled to address mourners, some from out of state who came to offer help and others who knew the young victims or their families.
Addressing the nation on Friday, Obama mourned the children who “had their entire lives ahead of them — birthdays, graduations, weddings, kids of their own.”
Story of Survival
The lone survivor of her class tricked the gunman by playing dead, the girl’s pastor told ABC News, before running out of the school covered in the blood of her classmates.
“She ran out of the school building covered from head to toe with blood and the first thing she said to her mom was, ‘Mommy, I’m OK but all my friends are dead,'” said Pastor Jim Solomon. “Somehow in that moment, by God’s grace, [she] was able to act as she was already deceased.”
Five first graders in another class were also killed, along with six staff members.
“The mom told me, and I thought this was very insightful, that she was suffering from what she felt was survivor’s guilt because so many of her friends no longer have their children but she has hers,” the pastor said.
Remembering the Victims of the Sandy Hook Shooting
There was Emilie Parker, the little girl with the blond hair and bright blue eyes, who would have been one of the first to comfort her classmates at Sandy Hook Elementary School, had a gunman’s bullets not claimed her life, her father said.
Noah Pozner and his twin sister had just celebrated their sixth birthdays. His twin sister survived the shooting, but Noah did not.
Six-year-old Jesse Lewis went to school on Friday, excited to make gingerbread houses. He died, along with his teacher, Victoria Soto, 27, whose family said was shielding some of her first graders when she was hit by bullets.
As the community mourns and families bear the pain of planning 26 funerals before Christmas, school board members hope to get students back to a familiar routine.
“Well, all the mental health experts we’ve talked to…tell us that the best thing we can do is to get back to normal operations as soon as possible,” said Bill Hart, a member of the Newtown Board of Education.
“We know some teachers won’t be prepared to come back, he said. “We are going to be prepared with substitutes. We’ve got counseling for all. We’re prepared to do whatever we have to do to help all of our community.”
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Lauren Leslie, CNN
Rolando Zenteno, CNN
Seth Fiegerman, CNN
Dan Simon and Chandrika Narayan, CNN