Five years later, even those who have never set foot near Newtown, Connecticut, can conjure the scene painted by police of a first-grade classroom transformed into a killing field.
Dawn Hochsprung, the slain Sandy Hook principal, ran toward danger in her attempt to save students.
Hochsprung's daughter, Tina Hassinger, shared a story on Thursday about an unknown hero from that day: the "woman in the Target parking lot:"
"To the woman in the Target parking lot, five years later:
It was mid-morning, maybe 10:00. My older boys were at school, and I was shopping with my younger children. Charlie was two years old, Alyson just five months.
We were in the dairy aisle, just about ready to check out when my phone rang. It was my sister calling to tell me there’d been a shooting at Sandy Hook, the elementary school where my mom was the principal.
I didn’t know yet that she had been killed.
I headed toward the exit of the store, abandoning a cart full of diapers and Goldfish crackers in front of the doors. I gathered the kids and rushed out of the store. Was it then that you noticed me?
I don’t remember what I did when I got outside, but I know that’s when you approached me. Was I standing still, dazed? Was I frantic? I don’t remember.
My memory of what happened over the next several hours is patchy. Some details are vividly clear. Other parts I don’t recall at all.
It was unseasonably warm for mid-December. Were we standing just outside store? Or had I made it into the parking lot?
You told me to sit down. Maybe I was pale, shock having drained the color from my face? I must have been holding Alyson’s infant carrier. Was I also carrying Charlie? Holding his hand?
I told you there’d been at shooting at my mom’s school. I think you asked me something then, but I don’t remember what. You said something in attempt at reassurance. But again, I can’t recall what it was.
I stood to head toward my car and you did something to help. What was it? Did you carry Alyson in her carrier? Or did you hold Charlie’s hand as you walked us to the car?
You asked if I was okay to drive and offered to follow me home, to make sure we got there safely. I think I told you no, that it really wasn’t necessary. But you insisted.
When we got to my house, I don’t think we spoke again. Did I wave my thanks as you drove off? Or did you wait in your car to watch as we disappeared inside?
I don’t remember your face. And I never asked your name. But I remember your kindness, five years later.
I’ve recounted the story of your help and concern that day many times. I have remembered your kindness over and over again.
My mom used to say, “Be nice to each other. It’s really all that matters.” I don’t know you, but our brief encounter indicates you truly embody that philosophy.
Helping a stranger in distress came naturally to you, and I am sincerely grateful for your actions. Your compassion is a bright spot in my memory of that dark day.
To the woman in the Target parking lot, I want to say thank you, five years later."