Praver also spoke about a second victim, six-year-old Benjamin Wheeler, who he called “a very spirited boy.” He and his parents, David and Francine Wheeler, were not members of the synagogue, but they attended its Chanukah celebration. There’s always some brave individual who goes up to the dance floor to get everybody involved. That was Ben Wheeler,” he said. “Just delightful people.”
Praver was among the group of assorted clergy, social workers and psychologists who arrived at the firehouse near the school where many of the victims and their families congregated after the shooting.
In response to the question of why such tragedies happen, Praver replied: “I don’t know the answer to that. I never try to present a theological answer to that. I think what’s more important is to have compassion, humanity and hold someone’s hand and hug them and cry with them.”
The horrific drama unfolded on Friday morning, a little after 9:30 a.m. when a lone gunman identified as Adam Lanza, 20, of Newtown, burst through the school's security system and headed for a classroom of first graders. Possessing hundreds of rounds of ammunition, Lanza used a Bushmaster .233 semi-automatic rifle, killing 18 of the children on site, with two being rushed to the local hospital where they were pronounced dead on arrival.
He also killed their teacher, 27-year-old Victoria Soto, along with the school principal Dawn Lafferty Hochsprung, 47, school psychologist, Mary Sherlach, 56, permanent substitute teacher Lauren Rousseau, 30, and teachers Rachel Davino, 29, and Anne Marie Murphy, 25. Lanza then turned the gun on himself, taking his own life, when he heard the first responders approaching. All together, he snuffed out the lives of 26 individuals in second largest school shooting in US history.
Before carrying out the gruesome massacre at the Sandy Hook school, Lanza, using guns legally registered to his mother Nancy, fatally shot her in the face in the family home in Newtown. In addition to the Bushmaster semi-automatic rifle, he was armed with two automatic handguns.
A relative told ABC News that Adam was "obviously not well." Family friends in Newtown also described the young man as troubled and described Nancy as rigid. "Adam was not connected with the other kids," said Barbara Frey, who also said he was "a little bit different, kind of repressed."
Nancy and her husband Peter, Adam's father, divorced in 2009. Peter Lanza, who drove to northern New Jersey to talk to police and the FBI, is a vice president at GE Capital and had been a partner at global accounting giant Ernst & Young.
In a condolence letter to President Obama following the massacre, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu drew a parallel to the acts of barbaric Arab terrorism Israel has to deal with. "I was shocked and horrified by today's savage massacre of innocent children and adults at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut," Netanyahu wrote. "We in Israel have experienced such cruel acts of slaughter and we know the shock and agony they bring. I want to express my profound grief, and that of all the people in Israel, to the families that lost their loved ones. May you and the American people find the strength to overcome this unspeakable tragedy."
Israeli President Shimon Peres on Saturday called the massacre "atrocious" and "incomprehensible" and said that Israelis' hearts were with the bereaved families. In his own letter of condolence to the US President, Peres said there was no experience that could be likened to that of parent losing a child. "We stand with you today in contemplation and grief over the atrocious, incomprehensible massacre of 20 children and six adults -- educators – at Sandy Hook Elementary School," he wrote. "No crime is more heinous than the killing of a child," he added. "Our thoughts and prayers are with you."
Earlier, Tzipi Livni, head of the newly formed centrist party Hatnuah and a former foreign minister, sent a message to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton."On this sad day, all Israelis share the deep sorrow of the Americans over the loss of so many lives of women, men and innocent children," she said.