Most died at the very start of their young lives, tiny victims taken in a way not fit no matter one's age. Others found their life's work in sheltering these little ones, teaching them, caring for them, treating them as their own. After the gunfire ended Friday at Sandy Hook Elementary School, the trail of loss was more than many could bear: 20 children and six adults at the school, the gunman's mother at home, and the gunman himself.
A glimpse of some of those who died:
Emilie Parker, 6
Quick to cheer up those in need of a smile, Emilie Parker never missed a chance to draw a picture or make a card.
Her father, Robbie Parker, fought back tears as he described the beautiful, blonde, always-smiling girl who loved to try new things, except food.
Chase Kowalski, 7, student
Chase Kowalski was always outside, playing in the backyard, riding his bicycle. Just last week, he was visiting neighbor Kevin Grimes, telling him about completing — and winning — his first mini-triathlon.
You couldn't think of a better child, Grimes said.
Ana Marquez-Greene, 6
A year ago, 6-year-old Ana Marquez-Greene was reveling in holiday celebrations with her extended family on her first trip to Puerto Rico. This year will be heartbreakingly different.
The girl's grandmother, Elba Marquez, said the child's family moved to Connecticut just two months ago, drawn from Canada, in part, by Sandy Hook's pristine reputation. The grandmother's brother, Jorge Marquez, is mayor of a Puerto Rican town and said the child's 9-year-old brother was also at the school, but escaped safely.
Olivia Engel, 6
The images of Olivia Engel will live far beyond her short lifetime. There she is, visiting with Santa Claus, or feasting on a slice of birthday cake. There's the one of her swinging a pink baseball bat, and another posing on a boat. In some, she models a pretty white dress, in others she makes a silly face.
Dan Merton, a longtime friend of the girl's family, says he could never forget the child, and he has much to say when he thinks of her.
Victoria Soto, 27,
She beams in snapshots. Her enthusiasm and cheer was evident. She was doing, those who knew her say, what she loved.
And now, Victoria Soto is being called a hero.
Though details of the 27-year-old teacher's death remained fuzzy, her name has been invoked again and again as a portrait of selflessness and humanity among unfathomable evil. Those who knew her said they weren't surprised by reports she shielded her first-graders from danger.
She put those children first. That's all she ever talked about, said a friend, Andrea Crowell. She wanted to do her best for them, to teach them something new every day.
Dawn Hochsprung, 47, principal
Dawn Hochsprung's pride in Sandy Hook Elementary was clear. She regularly tweeted photos from her time as principal there, giving indelible glimpses of life at a place now known for tragedy. Just this week, it was an image of fourth-graders rehearsing for their winter concert, days before that the tiny hands of kindergartners exchanging play money at their makeshift grocery store.
Officials said she died while lunging at the gunman in an attempt to overtake him.
Mary Sherlach, 56, school psychologist
When the shots rang out, Mary Sherlach threw herself into the danger.
Janet Robinson, the superintendent of Newtown Public Schools, said Sherlach and the school's principal ran toward the shooter. They lost their own lives, rushing toward him.
Even as Sherlach neared retirement, her job at Sandy Hook was one she loved. Those who knew her called her a wonderful neighbor, a beautiful person, a dedicated educator.
Lauren Gabrielle Rousseau, 30, teacher
Lauren Rousseau had spent years working as a substitute teacher and doing other jobs. So she was thrilled when she finally realized her goal this fall to become a full-time teacher at Sandy Hook.
Her mother, Teresa Rousseau, a copy editor at the Danbury News-Times, released a statement Saturday that said state police told them just after midnight that she was among the victims.
Lauren wanted to be a teacher from before she even went to kindergarten, she said. We will miss her terribly and will take comfort knowing that she had achieved that dream.
Anne Marie Murphy, 52, teacher
A happy soul. A good mother, wife and daughter. Artistic, fun-loving, witty and hardworking.
Remembering their daughter, Anne Marie Murphy, her parents had no shortage of adjectives to offer Newsday. Authorities told the couple their daughter was a hero who helped shield some of her students from the rain of bullets.
Nancy Lanza, 52, gunman's mother
She was known before simply for the game nights she hosted and the holiday decorations she put up at her house. Now Nancy Lanza is being called the mother of a killer and his first victim.
A neighbor, Rhonda Cullens, said she knew Nancy Lanza from get-togethers she had hosted to play Bunco, a dice game. She was a very nice lady, Cullens said. She was just like all the rest of us in the neighborhood, just a regular person.