Not that many years ago Lubbock's Tommy Magelssen sat in his middle school class in Danbury, Connecticut where his parents lived, and was scolded by the school's assistant principal, a woman named 'Dawn Lafferty'. Tommy was playing on his calcluator in class, and that was a no-no. Memories leave impressions, and Tommy's would forever be that Ms. Lafferty was a tough, but caring teacher. Maybe a little too tough for his taste at times, but who thinks a lot about their middle school principal anyway.
Ms. Lafferty would actually marry another teacher at that Danbury school and became Dawn Hochsprung. Tommy later moved with his parents to Spring, Texas. He would later attend Texas Tech, and after graduation get a job as a sports writer at the Lubbock Avalanche Journal.
Now Principal Dawn Lafferty Hochsprung just entered a Ph.D. program. She led a Newtown, Connecticut school district's strategic planning panel. She won a national school grant. She could be "a tough lady in the right sort of sense," a friend said.
On Friday, Hochsprung, 47, was fatally shot inside her school in a massacre that killed five other adults and 20 students. The shooter killed himself; his mother, a teacher at the school, was found dead in a Newtown house, said a law enforcement source with detailed knowledge of the investigation. She had been the principal of Sandy Hook Elementary School for about two years.There were 525 pupils from kindergarten to fourth grade. Until Friday.
In Lubbock, Tommy heard about what happened Friday, and was shocked to see a name he remembered on the list of victims. He says his memories of middle school, and a day with a calculator came flooding back. And a national tragedy hit home in a personal way.
"It really makes you appreciate everything," Tommy told KAMC News. "And I think that's really been said a lot but when something like this does happen, you really have to appreciate what you have and think about why this happened."
What Tommy has are real memories of a woman none of the rest of us will ever know, who made a tiny, lasting impression on his life.
She made an impression on others as well. At her school, and at home in Woodbury, Connecticut, where Hochsprung was busy raising two daughters and three stepdaughters.
In her two years at Sandy Hook, the principal came across as a "very well-liked, compassionate woman" who was "extremely helpful," said Aimee Seaver, a mother of a first grader.
Hochsprung brought positive energy, sincerity and a strong work ethic to the job -- qualities that will be sorely missed, added Seaver.
Missed and remembered. From Connecticut, to Lubbock, Texas.