NEWTOWN, Conn. -- The mass shooting that left 20 elementary school students dead Friday shattered this small Connecticut town and found the young friends of the victims recounting tales of horror.
"I heard gunshots; I was under a desk with three or four other people," said Luie Munguia, an 8-year-old third-grader.
He spoke in the late morning near the school with his mother, Lindsay Sweeney, and grandmother, Kathy Sweeney.
"It is surreal, like something out of a movie. ... I'm just praying for everyone," Lindsay Sweeney said.
The shootings Friday began just after 9:30 a.m. at Sandy Hook Elementary School, about 60 miles northeast of New York City, prompting panic inside and outside the school.
The death toll at Sandy Hook -- 26 students and adults -- made it the nation's second-deadliest school shooting, exceeded only by the Virginia Tech massacre in 2007, where 33 were killed. Police said the gunman killed himself at the school and there was another person shot dead at a nearby home, bringing the overall toll to 28.
A law enforcement official identified the gunman as 20-year-old Adam Lanza, the son of a Sandy Hook teacher, Nancy Lanza.
FOX News reported Lanza, who lived with his mother, woke up and shot her to death. Then, he took her car and drove to the school, where he opened fire in two rooms. Principal Dawn Hochsprung and school psychologist Mary Sherloch reportedly were among the adults killed.
It was unclear how he entered the school.
Later, three guns were found: a Glock and a Sig Sauer, both pistols, inside the school, and a .223-caliber rifle in the back of a car.
A law enforcement official said Adam Lanza had a possible personality disorder. His older brother, 24-year-old Ryan, of Hoboken, N.J., was being questioned. The official said Ryan Lanza had been extremely cooperative, was not believed to have any involvement in the rampage and was not under arrest or in custody, but investigators were still searching his computers and phone records.
Ryan Lanza told law enforcement he had not been in touch with his brother since about 2010.
FOX News reported Peter Lanza, father of Adam and Ryan, was informed about the shooting by a reporter who was waiting outside his home in nearby Stamford, Conn.
Witnesses described a chaotic scene inside the school as the shooter opened fire, eventually killing 20 students between the ages of 5 and 10.
"I was in the art room and we heard gunshots so we had to close the door," said Venesa Bajiraliu, a 9-year-old fourth grader. "But ... one of the doors didn't lock so we went in the art teacher's office. And she called her husband to call 911, and the police came and when they came we heard on the loudspeaker a scream, and then they came and we went with them,. And they said to close our eyes so I closed my eyes, and then when we went outside of the school we can open our eyes."
Richard Wilson, 36, said he and his wife were home when they got the call there was a shooting at their son's school. Like many parents, they raced to the school, becoming part of a crime scene that quickly spread through the neighborhood.
Sarah Walker Caron, a former New Haven Register reporter, said her young son, Will, was in the school at the time of the shooting.
"I've never been more terrified in my life," she said. "My heart was pounding. I couldn't race fast enough (to the school)."
"It's the most terrible moment of a parent's life -- you have no idea," Richard Wilson said. Their son, Richie, 7, later said the shots sounded like "really loud pots were banging."
A tearful President Obama addressed the country just after 3 p.m.
"I know there is not a parent in America who doesn't feel the same overwhelming grief that I do," said Obama, who paused several times during his remarks to compose himself. "The majority of those who died today were children, beautiful little kids between the ages of 5 and 10 years old. "They had their entire lives ahead of them. birthdays, graduations, weddings, kids of their own.
He promised action to prevent such tragedies again but did not say what that would be.
Connecticut Gov. Daniel Malloy, spoke briefly at a press conference and said, "It's a tragic, tragic scene."
Later in the day, the somber governor said: "evil visited this community."
Late Friday, police remained at the school, gathering evidence.
Meanwhile, families affected by the shootings turned to each other and to faith community for comfort. Thousands gathered at church services to show support for the families who lost loved ones.
At St. Rose of Lima Roman Catholic Church, people filled the pews, the front yard and nearly spilled out into the road. Children came carrying stuffed animals.
Rachel Rockwell traveled back from college in Massachusetts to attend the vigil. She attended Sandy Hook Elementary School.
"I wanted to come home, see my mom," she said. "I went to school there 15 years ago that could have been me."
Inside the Newtown Methodist Church, residents gathered to pray and to grieve. The congregation sang: "Be still, my soul: the Lord is on your side. Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain."
The stifled tears of congregants were betrayed by quiet sniffs. Men and women discreetly dabbed tears from their eyes.
When the clergyman asked congregants to offer prayers to those affected by the tragedy, the names of those whose lives were taken were uttered.
The names of those who knew someone affected were spoken. And the name of Adam Lanza, the suspected shooter, who was no stranger to Newtown, was offered up for prayer as well.