Dawn Hochsprung, the principal killed Friday in the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., was dedicated not only to the education of her students, but also to their physical well-being, according to her cousin, a University at Buffalo official.
Melanie Buhrmaster-Bunch, assistant vice president for the UB Office of Corporate and Foundation Relations, said that Hochsprung, though diminutive, was tenacious about sparing her students from harm.
“When I heard about her going to confront the gunman who forced his way into her school, I was not surprised. She would do anything to protect her students,” Buhrmaster-Bunch said Monday in a telephone interview from Connecticut, where she traveled to mourn with family.
“My only hope is that [the gunman] had a little bit of fear in his eyes knowing that this 5-foot, 2-inch raging bull was coming at him,” Buhrmaster-Bunch told The Buffalo News.
This image of Hochsprung as a hero provides some comfort to Buhrmaster-Bunch in the midst of a devastating tragedy. She described her relationship with Hochsprung as very close.
“She was my cousin, but she was probably more like a sister to me,” Buhrmaster-Bunch said.
“Thank goodness I got to go home for Thanksgiving to see her,” she said.
The cousins spent some of their formative years together in Broadalbin, N.Y., a family hub northwest of Albany where their mothers - who are sisters - grew up.
“You know that one person in your life that you’ve known forever, and you kind of automatically revert back to your 10-year-old self when you’re around them? She was that person for me,” said Buhrmaster-Bunch.
She said Hochsprung traveled to Buffalo 12 years ago to participate in her wedding.
“I think that, for the most part, I’m still in shock that something like this could happen,” Buhrmaster-Bunch said of the massacre.
“There is a hole in my heart that will never be filled.”
The shooting took not only the life of Hochsprung, but also the lives of 20 Sandy Hook Elementary School students, five staff members, the assailant’s mother and the shooter himself.
Hochsprung – who was married, with two daughters, three stepdaughters and four grandchildren – was “deeply devoted to the profession of teaching,” said Buhrmaster-Bunch.
“My cousin loved what she did,” she said. “She was pursuing her Ph.D. at Russell Sage, a teaching college in Troy, N.Y. She just started this September.
“Eventually, she wanted to become a superintendent or a higher-level administrator, but her dream was cut short by a coward.”
Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly indicated where Dawn Hochsprung grew up.