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A CT governor notified Sandy Hook families about loved ones. 'I have revisited that day many times.'

NEWTOWN, CT - DECEMBER 14: Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy observes a moment of silence with mourners gathererd inside the St. Rose of Lima Roman Catholic Church at a vigil service for victims of the Sandy Hook School shooting December 14, 2012 in Newtown, Connecticut. Twenty-seven people are dead, including 20 children, after a gunman identified as Adam Lanza in news reports opened fire in the school. Lanza also reportedly died at the scene. (Photo by Andrew Gombert-Pool/Getty Images)
Andrew Gombert / Pool/Getty Images
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Former Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy observes a moment of silence at St. Rose of Lima Roman Catholic Church in Newtown after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting that happened on Dec. 14, 2012.

Someone had to tell them.

“I’m with people who don't know where their spouse is, or don’t know where their children are.”

Former Gov. Dannel Malloy recalled his time in Newtown immediately after the Dec. 14, 2012, Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting that left 20 children and six educators dead.

Inside a firehouse, Malloy was with anxious family members, who awaited word on their loved ones.

“I had this collection of sorrowful people waiting – holding on to some amount of hope,” Malloy said. “As time went on, it got more and more painful for them.”

He said some waiting believed their loved ones escaped – maybe into the surrounding woods. Maybe they were hiding. Maybe.

Malloy said it was limbo. It was torture.

“Ultimately, I decided that I couldn't tolerate that going on any longer,” Malloy said. “We knew how many people had been killed at the school, we knew how many people had gone to the hospital. We didn’t have the actual identification of each body and wouldn’t have that, perhaps until the next day.

“Without someone to do it, I decided that I would break the news to the folks who were at the firehouse.”

As he looked around the room, Malloy said it wasn’t just parents. Children were there, too.

“I was particularly struck by … how painful and sorrowful that would be for them as a recollection,” Malloy said. “I did my best to avoid using words like ‘death’ and ‘dead.’”

Malloy recalled what he said.

“If you haven’t been reunited with your loved one thus far today, that’s not going to happen. And it would be best for us to help you get home and care for yourselves and care for your children,” he said.

For Malloy, a hard-charging governor known for his work ethic and sometimes prickly demeanor, that day at the firehouse will always be with him.

He said he still prays for the parents, siblings and spouses who had losses few others will experience “and certainly none of us have experienced in quite the same way.”

“The first half of December is always a little tough,” Malloy said. “Some of the parents sent me pictures of their children – and Christmas tree ornaments that have pictures.

“I have revisited that day many times in the 10 years that have come and gone.”

Connecticut Public Radio’s Colin McEnroe and Lily Tyson contributed to this report. Hear the full interview with former Gov. Dannel Malloy on The Colin McEnroe Show.

Patrick Skahill is a reporter and digital editor at Connecticut Public. Prior to becoming a reporter, he was the founding producer of Connecticut Public Radio's The Colin McEnroe Show, which began in 2009. Patrick's reporting has appeared on NPR's Morning Edition, Here & Now, and All Things Considered. He has also reported for the Marketplace Morning Report. He can be reached at pskahill@ctpublic.org.