NEWTOWN, Conn. (WTNH) – It has been 10 years since 20 students and six educators were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown.
Rob Sibley is a Deputy Chief in the Sandy Hook Volunteer Fire Department and is also the deputy director for Emergency Management in the village of 9,000 people.
Back in 2012, Sibley’s youngest son was in the 3rd grade at Sandy Hook Elementary. His wife, Barbara, had gone to the school that morning, December 14, which was a regular sunny winter morning. The parking lot was full.
“And as she arrived, it looked like a regular school day,” Sibley said. “However, there was a car parked out front.”
It was shortly before 9:30 a.m. Their son, Daniel, had forgotten his homework.
“Daniel had forgotten some items for school at home,” Sibley said. “And so, her hope was to be able to get to the classes before assignments were due.”
The clues in front of her did not add up as she approached the front door.
“She realized that there was glass on the ground and she figured that someone had thrown a rock and that something had happened,” Sibley said. “As she arrived, she heard the popping sound and thought, ‘oh you know, am I hearing fireworks going off.’”
Barbara and another woman hid. She frantically called Rob.
“The phone call basically went, ‘I love you, there’s a gunman at the school, tell the boys I love them,’ and hung up,” Sibley said.
What he would later find out is his wife appears to have come face-to-face with the gunman.
“She has a memory of Adam coming through the area,” Sibley said. “At that moment, it’s split-second timing, so whether she has now envisioned the danger or that the real present danger at that moment kind of made that happen. Her memory still makes that a very frightening situation.”
For reasons unknown, his wife was spared.
“Whether it was a moment where one of the teachers called out to take attention away or whether it was just part of what, if you can call it a plan, she was spared,” Sibley said.
Sibley, as a first responder, was called to the scene. He was on the other side of town, which is a nearly 10-minute drive away.
“As a first responder, we really compartmentalize how we’re going to react to a scene in order to be not one of the victims, but one of the helpers,” Sibley said.
Once the scene was secured, he and his wife were reunited.
“We were able to be one of the first happy reuniting’s of that tragic day,” Sibley said.
The families of the 26 souls taken that day never experienced a reunion. A decade later, their unique journeys have ebbed and flowed with the seasons.
At the firehouse where they were given the news their loved ones had died, a glass case down the hall holds hundreds of patches. First responders from around the country sent them as a sign of respect and solidarity. A plaque above reads, “A tribute to your strength and dedication then now and forever.”
For the Sibley family, they reflect on the day in different ways.
“As a family, we spend time reflecting on those who were lost, with reflecting on the thankfulness that we are part of the families that were spared,” Sibley said. “And at the end of the day, thankful that we have a community that continues to support.”
Their son Daniel is now in college and his other children, twins, are in high school. Each deals with the tragedy of that day differently.