Alaska Lt. Governor Mead Treadwell was making breakfast Friday morning when he heard the words "shooting" and "Newtown, Connecticut" on the news. He knows that place. He grew up there. A little later, he heard the where shooting happened. Sandy Hook Elementary. That was his school. He could picture every classroom.
"You walk right in and there's the principals office right there and, you know, you go left and you go down the hallway toward the kindergarten, first, second and third grade. And you go right and you go down the hallway to the fourth and fifth grade," he said.
"It's just amazing that the guy turned left and went down and hit those kindergarten kids.... I don't know what to say about it, it's just disgusting, it's horrifying."
Treadwell's father was the first selectman, like the mayor, of Newtown in the 1970s. His brother still lives less than a half-hour away. His mother, Anne, is in Anchorage for Christmas. She sat with Treadwell in front of the television Friday morning. There was the old new England mill town they both knew. The school playground where Treadwell learned to hold a bat and played kickball. The fire station where he had drum corps practice. He watched a news conference held in Treadwell Park, which had been named for his father.
"To give you an idea of what the town is like...I had a paper route with five customers and any given day on the 25 minutes each direction it would take to do my paper route, I would see more woodchucks than people, I'd see more cows than people," he said.
Treadwell posted his connection to Newtown on Facebook and old classmates sent him messages all day. He was back there 10 years ago. Very little had changed, he said. The school was just the same.
By late Friday, shock had turned to sadness.
"My late wife and I lost a baby son. As a parent, I always feel no parent should have to bury their children. I've been in tears a couple of times today for those families," he said.
Treadwell announced last month he'd formed an exploratory committee to look at the possibility of a run for the Republican U.S. Senate nomination in 2014. Asked to weigh in on the national debate Friday about gun control, he said, "if people care for each other, then there doesn't have to be a regime to make us care about each other." He said the incident made him most concerned about caring for the mentally ill.
"We have to be vigilant about people who are in trouble," he said.
Mainly, he said, it made him look forward to having his children home for Christmas.
"Now is one of the best times to just totally appreciate those you love because you never know when you might not have 'em."
By JULIA O'MALLEY