The morning started off normal for Gene Rosen as he fed his cats before heading to a local diner. He had heard gunfire about 15 minutes earlier, but he believed it to be from a hunter in the nearby woods.
As he walked out of his home, he noticed six small children sitting in his driveway, a school bus driver standing over them, doing her best to provide the children support. He initially thought the children were practicing for a school play, but as he approached he noticed the four girls and two boys were visibly distraught.
He asked what was happening, having no idea the horror that had just occurred a few blocks from his home. One little boy looked at him and said
"We can't go back to school. Our teacher is dead. Mrs. Soto; we don't have a teacher."
He began walking the children past his small goldfish pond and the garden he and his two grandchildren had planted before taking the children in to his home. Running upstairs, Rosen grabbed stuffed animals, hoping they could somehow provide comfort to the children. He also got each child some juice and sat with them as they began to describe what they had just experienced. One child told him the man who had killed their teacher had a "big gun and a little gun." Rosen told the Associated Press
"This little boy turns around, and composes himself, and he looks at me like he had just removed himself from the carnage and he says, 'Just saying, your house is very small.' "I wanted to tell him, 'I love you. I love you.'"
Rosen was able to get the phone numbers of the children's parents from the school bus company. He started calling parents, telling them their children were safe and giving directions to his house. As he waited for parents to arrive, he told the children how brave they were, how he was now their friend and how he would never forget them. As he did his best to reassure and comfort the children, one little girl gripped a stuffed Dalmatian against her chest, starring out the window waiting for her mother.
Rosen began to recall how he had taught his 8-year-old grandson to ride his bike in the school parking lot and taken his 4-year-old granddaughter to play on the swings at the school. He thought about how his life had been changed forever, how the grounds of the school that had given him and his grandchildren joy had been "marred" and "desecrated".
Approximately two hours after the last of the children had left his home, Rosen heard a knock at his door. Answering, he found a frantic mother looking for her son and hoping he had been one of the children who had made it to Rosen's driveway. Breaking down in tears, Rosen said
"Her face looked frozen in terror She thought maybe a miracle from God would have the child at my house. I looked at the casualty list ... and his name was on it."