Tim Beamer believes his cousin, Dawn Hochsprung, died while trying to save the children at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
“We couldn‘t imagine her doing anything else,” Beamer, 43, of West View said Sunday.
Newtown officials say Hochsprung, the principal at Sandy Hook, died when she lunged at the gunman who fatally shot her and 26 others, including 20 children, on Friday.
“Teachers, in general, are very special people,” he said. “To do that for a living takes a very unique individual. You‘re taking care of other people‘s children, and children are the most valuable resource on the face of the planet.
“Dawn understood the weight of that responsibility and devoted her life to making sure children in her care were taken care of to the absolute best of her ability.”
Beamer‘s mother and Hochsprung‘s father are siblings. Hochsprung, 47, grew up in Northeastern Pennsylvania and moved to Connecticut. She had two daughters from a previous marriage and three stepchildren.
Beamer, who is married and has a daughter, said he saw his cousin about once a year.
“When we did get together, she would question me about my kid, my brother‘s kids,” he said. “Her No. 1 concern in life was what was going on with the children.”
Beamer said he had not been to Sandy Hook Elementary but has visited that area.
“It‘s not an area where you would expect something like this to happen. It would be like if it happened in Fox Chapel,” he said.
He heard about the shootings on Friday morning and sent his cousin a message on Facebook. She did not respond. As news of the event poured in that afternoon, the reality of the killings finally hit him.
“To say that I was shocked would be an extraordinary understatement,” he said. “To not hear back from her has been very difficult for me.”
Beamer said the tragedy has shaken him and his family. He hopes he‘ll be able to take time off work from his job in information technology to attend his cousin‘s funeral.
“This is one of those things you never expect to happen to anyone you know, let alone to someone in your family. It‘s been a trying time for all of us.”
His family gathered on Sunday in his parents‘ Murrysville home to comfort one another. He doesn‘t believe there‘s a way to make sense of his cousin‘s death.
“If I was to have any message to anybody it is, if you are parent, if you have children, pay attention to them,” he said. “Pay attention to what they‘re doing, listen to what they‘re saying, ask questions about what‘s going on in their life.
“If you are a parent, be a parent.”