A group of little first-graders was so terrified when crazed gunman Adam Lanza burst into their classroom that they ran from their safe hiding place only to be promptly gunned down, one of the children’s fathers recounted yesterday.
“I wish my kid stayed put,” shattered father Neil Heslin said of his 6-year-old son Jesse Lewis’ decision to make a run for it.
“But that’s Jesse,’’ the dad told The Post, struggling to make sense of the tragedy.
“I can see him making that choice and just doing something. My boy died the way I would have died if I was in that position.”
Jesse’s teacher, Victoria Soto, 27, has been hailed as a hero for trying to defend Jesse and her 12 other small charges — ultimately using her own body as a shield — as Lanza raged in her classroom.
Upon first hearing Lanza’s gunfire in the distance, Soto quickly herded her confused kids into a closet or bathroom, according to the Hartford Courant.
Lanza soon barged into the classroom and demanded to know where her kids were.
In a desperate bluff to fend off his assault, Soto told him that they were in an auditorium at the other end of the building, the paper reported, citing a law-enforcement source.
But before he left, six of the panicked children attempted to flee from Lanza, the newspaper reported.
They were all immediately shot down.
Soto and a teacher’s aide were also killed in the chaos.
The seven remaining students stayed hidden in terrified silence until they were discovered cowering by astonished investigators.
“Finally, [authorities] opened that door, and there were seven sets of eyes looking at them,” a law-enforcement source told the newspaper.
Heslin said he learned of Jesse’s decision to run for freedom only yesterday and was torn between regret and admiration.
“Jesse grew up on a farm,” he said. “He’s tough. That would be my little guy to try to get out of there.”
“My son thought he could conquer the world. He had no fear of anything at all. He was a calm, level-headed kid.”
Heslin said Jesse’s mother was plunged into despair after getting word of their boy’s death and is being watched closely by friends and family.
The slaughter of the six children and two teachers came after Lanza had already eradicated any sign of life in another first-grade classroom, where he murdered all 14 kids. He killed four other educators at the school.
Source: NY Post