(WASHINGTON) — In an emotional ceremony at the White House Friday, President Obama honored six educators who “gave all they had for the most innocent and helpless among us” with the Presidential Citizens Medal.
Principal Dawn Hochsprung, school psychologist Mary Sherlach, and teachers Lauren Rousseau, Victoria Soto, Rachel Davino and Anne Marie Murphy lost their lives in the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., last December. On Friday, they were among 18 Americans recognized with the nation’s second-highest civilian honor.
“When they showed up for work at Sandy Hook Elementary on December 14th of last year, they expected a day like any other, doing what’s right for their kids, spend a chilling morning readying classrooms and welcoming young students,” Obama said at a ceremony in the East Room of the White House.
“They had no idea that evil was about to strike. And when it did, they could have taken shelter by themselves. They could have focused on their own safety, and their own well-being. But they didn’t. They gave their lives to protect the precious children in their care,” he said.
One by one, the families of the victims, many visibly emotional, came on stage to accept the medal on behalf of their loved ones. Each was met with a consoling hug from the president.
“I’ve gotten to know many of you during the course of some very difficult weeks, and your courage and love for each other and your communities shines through every single day, and we could not be more blessed and grateful for your loved ones who gave everything they had on behalf of our kids,” Obama said.
“That’s what we honor today, the courageous heart, the selfless spirit, the inspiring actions of extraordinary Americans, extraordinary citizens,” he said.
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
Matt McFarland, CNN
Susan Scutti, CNN
Ariane de Vogue and Laura Jarrett, CNN