The 911 recordings from the school massacre in Newtown, Conn., were released Wednesday, less than two weeks before the first anniversary of the tragedy, after state officials lost a fight to keep them under wraps.
The recordings were made public after the Connecticut Freedom of Information Commission approved a request from the Associated Press and the state's attorney decided not to appeal any further.
Prosecutors had argued that audio of seven calls placed from inside the school would cause anguish for the families of those slain and the survivors.
A court agreed they would be "a searing reminder of the horror and pain of that awful day" but said would also underscore the "bravery and professionalism" of the first responders and other adults involved.
One of the calls was from a custodian who called to report gunshots near the front of Sandy Hook Elementary School on Dec. 14, 2012, when 20 children and six staffers were murdered in a shooting rampage.
“I keep hearing shooting. I keep hearing popping,” he told the dispatcher. Moments later he reported it went silent, but then a short time later, he reported, “There’s still shooting going on. Please.”
A female caller said she caught of glimpse of someone with a gun running down the hallway. “They’re still running. They’re still shooting,” she told the dispatcher. “Sandy Hook School, please.”
Dispatchers remained calm as the calls came in but clearly realized a major incident was under way.
“Get the sergeant. Get everyone you can going down there,” one said to a colleague.
“Guys, we’ve got a shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown. That’s what 911 is ringing off the hook for,” another was heard saying in the background of a call.
“I’m going ‘active shooter.’”
Another call came in from a state police officer who said he was with a teacher who had been shot in the foot. The victim sounded shaken as she gave a dispatcher her classroom location.
“There’s children in this room,” she said.
Many family members of the victims opposed the release of the tapes – but others were in favor of public airing.
"We don't feel that the 911 calls should have been released but that decision has been made now," said Nicole Hockley, whose 6-year-old son Dylan was murdered.
"It will affect our community certainly and it will affect our families," she told MSNBC. "And I think as parents it's just down to us to ensure our children and families are protected from hearing those for as long as possible."
However, Gilles Rousseau, whose daughter, substitute teacher Lauren Rousseau, was killed in the massacre, felt differently.
"I think the more the public knows, there will be less confusion, there will be less people making stories about what happened," Rousseau told TODAY. "I'm much better dealing with the facts than dealing with the unknown."
The recordings were put out days after state law-enforcement officials released a long-awaited report on the shooting and gunman Adam Lanza, 20.
It found he was obsessed with school shootings and carefully planned the rampage but did not uncover a clear motive.
First published December 4 2013, 11:57 PM