Greek Children and Teachers in the Center of the Tragedy

Three Greek Orthodox students and 2 teachers escape Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre. Librarian Ivonne Cech saved 18 fourth graders.

Danbury, CT.- There was a glimpse of joy cutting through the dark cloud of sadness hanging over the 600 parishioners of the Greek Orthodox Church of the Assumption, in Danbury, when they learned that no person of Greek descent was among the 27 victims of the massacre in the town of Newtown, Conn., just 12 miles to the south.

Michael Chek, husband of the heroic librarian, during the Holy Liturgy at the Church of the Assumption in Danbury CT. Archbishop Demetrios presided at the liturgy, attended by the families of the three pupils survived the massacre. Photo: Dimitrios Panagos

None of the three Greek-American children who attended the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, were reported among the 20 students killed, along with six adults, by a gunman identified by Adam Lanza, 20, who then shot himself, police said.

The spokesman for the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese, Stavros Papagermanos, said two Greek Orthodox teachers working in the school, including a librarian, were able to escape the scene unharmed.

The information was also confirmed by the parish priest Rev. Peter Karloutsos. In statements Fr Peter referred to the bravery of the Greek Orthodox school librarian, Yvonne Cech, who took at the sound of gunfire 18 children and one assistant in a closet where they stayed for 45 minutes.

“The SWAT team escorted us out,” she was quoted as saying by the New York Times.

“I know Yvonne for several years; she is a brave woman and a good Christian,” said Father Peter.

Upon hearing the horrible news of the monstrous mass shooting in the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, Archbishop Demetrios of America immediately contacted Fr. Peter Karloutsos. He expressed to him his deep pain and great concern about this terrible incident and its devastating effects on the local community, and offered any support on behalf of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.

The Archbishop said that this is a crime whose magnitude and nature is impossible to believe, an abominable act of the kind that our society should work hard to prevent.  He called upon the orthodox faithful across the country to pray fervently for support and healing from God to the many families and individuals affected by this violent act and for the repose of the souls of the innocent victims of this enormous tragedy.

Archbishop Demetrios was expected to visit on Sunday the Greek Orthodox Church of the Assumption in Danbury, in order to offer pastoral support and guidance to the people of the area and pray with them in a Divine Liturgy. Also present were the Consuls General of Greece and Cyprus, George Eliopoulos and Koula Sophianou.

In a message of condolence to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Foreign Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos on Saturday expressed his deep sorrow at the tragic deaths of 28 youngsters and teachers at the Newtown elementary school shooting in Connecticut.

Avramopoulos also expressed the Greek people’s support for the American people at this difficult time and his condolences to the families of the victims of “this heinous crime”.

A similar message from the Greek President Karolos Papoulias was conveyed to President Barack Obama.