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State police said students and faculty were killed during the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown.
The Friday morning massacre at a Connecticut elementary school sent a tremor of shock and horror across Chicago.
"Those are children," said Ronna DeBortoli, who learned of the news after she flew into O'Hare International Airport. "I'm crying now, but that's children that were killed. It's terrible."
DeBortoli watched coverage of the shooting's aftermath with other passengers on monitors at the Chicago airport.
"In Europe they don't have the death penalty, but they don't have a tenth of the murders that we do in Chicago alone," DeBortoli said, crying. "They don't have guns in Europe"
NBC News confirmed a 24-year-old man, dressed in all black carrying two guns, killed 26 people -- 18 of them children -- during morning announcements at a Newtown elementary school. The massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School is one the worst school shooting in American history.
"I don't think we can be residents of Chicago without feeling some for our fellow residents in Connecticut, and our fellow residents in Portland, Ore.," Emanuel told reporters Friday. "It does remind you of how fragile life is. This is a holiday season, but God forbid any time any parent can't leave their child off at school with the sense that they're in the safest place where they're going to be nurtured, where they're going to learn in a safe environment."
Emanuel called on everyone "to remember those children, to remember their families, to remember their communities in this time of loss to this senseless gun violence."
Gov. Pat Quinn said he was "shocked and deeply saddened to learn of the horrific massacre," offering prayers on behalf of Illinois and recalling the state's own tragedy in 2008.
“We know firsthand from the tragedy that took place on February 14, 2008 in a classroom at Northern Illinois University that guns have no place in any school, at anytime, anywhere in Illinois or America.
Back at O'Hare, tears flowed as passengers watched the news. "It's frustrating because with the gun laws in this country we make it easy for these things to happen, then we act surprised when it happens," said passenger Steve McLemore.
"I cannot imagine having dropped my child off, seeing this in the news and then getting to this area where they put the parents to reunite with their children and my child not running to me I could not imagine, I could not even imagine."
"It's frightening," Jan Horschberger said. "If children can't be safe in school, where can they be safe?"
"It's absolutely devastating," Horschberger said. "School is supposed to be a safe place for kids, its hurts your heart to see."