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Mary Sherlach, CT School Shooting Victim, Looked Ahead to Next Stage of Life

Sherlach was school psychologist at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT, the site of a deadly shooting rampage on Friday.

WEST DEPTFORD, NJ -- Mary Sherlach looked forward to spending more time on Owasco Lake during her retirement. 

She and her husband, Bill, owned a cabin along the Finger Lakes in upstate New York. 

Mary Sherlach was one year away from retirement. 

But on Friday morning, her life ended in the second most deadly school shooting in American history. 

Sherlach, 56, was school psychologist at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT, where a gunman opened fire, killing 26 people, including 20 children. The gunman, identified as 20-year-old Adam Lanza, also killed his mother, who was a teacher at the school, according to reports. He died in the rampage at the school, bringing the death toll to 28. 

Sherlach, who lived in Trumbull, CT, had worked at the school for more than 20 years, said her son-in-law, Eric Schwartz, a freelance writer who covers high school sports for Patch in South Jersey. 

Schwartz said by telephone Friday night that he and his wife, Maura, first learned of the shootings Friday morning after receiving a panicked phone call from Maura's sister, Katy. 

"She was saying, 'Turn on the news, turn on the news,'" Eric Schwartz recalled. 

At first, the couple was hopeful when a report indicated that only one person at the school had been shot, in the foot. But the news quickly turned grim. 

Broadcast reports confirmed that the school's principal and psychologist had been killed in the shootings. 

"It was a really helpless feeling," recalled Eric Schwartz, 28. "For about an hour, you try to say, 'They got it wrong, they got it wrong.'"

Eric and Maura Schwartz immediately drove to Connecticut from their home in Deptford, NJ. 

"I still don't think anyone's fully grasped it," Eric Schwartz said from the Sherlach family's home Friday night. "It still doesn't feel real. It's hard to wrap your head around it."

The family was still waiting for more details about the shooting that took Mary Sherlach's life, he said. 

'She wanted to help'

Mary Sherlach enjoyed her work at Sandy Hook, especially when she could get through to a struggling student.  

"She wanted to help kids get over their problems and go on to be successful," Eric Schwartz said. 

Mary Sherlach was an avid Miami Dolphins fan, and she could easily get riled up during a game, especially when her team wasn't performing well, her son-in-law recalled. He took good-natured ribbing from her for being a Buffalo Bills fan. 

"She was very sharp and she had a very nice sense of humor," Eric Schwartz said. "She was opinionated, but in a good way."

Now, Eric Schwartz said, Mary Sherlach's family is left to ponder all the what-ifs. 

"It’s not fair that she never gets to hold a grandchild. She went from getting up and going to work like any other day, to ... gone."

(Editor's note: An earlier version of this story spelled Katy Sherlach's first name incorrectly.)

Scotty December 17, 2012 at 10:49 PM
@Barb: not quite. I know it makes for a pithy sound bite, but since they COULDN'T USE GUNS ON BOARD they had to devise cutting weapons (ergo box cutters which are concealable) to attack the crews who either didn't fight back, or if they did were killed. Shock value kept the others in line. A bullet fired IN an aircraft would have punctured the fuselage and disintegrated the plane in mid-air which would completely defeat their purpose, so of course they needed up close and personal weapons. The prevailing thought on Airlines (back then) was that no hijacker or terrorist would kill the pilots since they'd need them to fly the planes. No one ever thought they'd train their own pilots to crash the planes into buildings. The Airlines also did not keep the cockpits locked (all changed since 9-11). Passengers back then were also far less inclined to get involved as they are now. Now we know it's either that or die--so passengers have taken down many out-of-control people. Boxcutter wielding assailants can be disarmed by unarmed people willing to risk injury. Anything, even a book or jacket or towel wrapped around an arm can be used to protect oneself from the blade. Sheer numbers can overwhelm an assailant. NOT SO with a gun. And in truth? The real 'weapons' of 9-11 were the planes themselves. THEY (and the jet fuel) are what did all the damage. So let's at least keep the facts and the truth straight for purposes of accuracy.
Scotty December 17, 2012 at 11:00 PM
@Kaitlyn--you're right. And she's being justifiably hailed as a hero, along with the principal of the school for running TOWARDS the assailant. Two very courageous and unarmed women putting themselves between their charges and danger. That takes bravery of a kind which takes my breath away--and still leaves me in tears days later. So many women killed from very young to middle-aged including the murderer's own mother. So many young lives, many more girls than boys murdered. There's a theme here but the overall feeling I get is the terror that must have been overwhelming, yet intense bravery in the face of it. Mary Sherlack was an astonishing woman as were the others who died with her. Much of our frustration is because we don't want more incredible women like her to be destroyed far too soon when we can and HAVE TO do something to stop this carnage. My heart is just aching for her family as well as for all of the others. I cannot imagine going through this.
NJarhead December 17, 2012 at 11:13 PM
Scotty, let me just assure you that a stray bullet merely puncturing the fuselage would not have "disintegrated" the aircraft. Having made my living in aviation, I find your uniformed analysis laughable. Especially considering the note made on getting facts in order. Another fact remains: hijackers used box cutters and that led to the murder of nearly 3000. You missed the point. That being, they will always find a way.
Scotty December 17, 2012 at 11:14 PM
General comment here folks: Those who are struggling valiantly to KEEP this topic about MARY SHERLACH are fighting a losing battle. Can we kindly stop? ALL of us? --move the comments to another topic--call it ANYTHING you want: Gun Control/Pros and Cons -- whatever, just take it away from this poor brave woman's site. We've done enough to upset her family with extraneous topics..especially the name-calling and vicious remarks tossed in superfluously. Stop! This is my last comment here.
Heather January 09, 2013 at 01:17 AM
I've read most of the comments. There is one thing in common with all of the posts. Everyone is trying to make sense out of something that makes no sense. I am truely sorry for the loss of Mary and can't imagine what her family has gone through. Thank you Mary for choosing to be a School Psychologist and making a difference in children's lives.

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