In any major media event, where the entire world’s attention focuses on one specific event, the maelstrom eventually distills itself into a few stark quotes and pictures, which become iconic. In the case of the tragic shooting n Newtown Connecticut, in which 20 first-graders and 6 adults were gun-downed with no apparent motive by a 20-year old boy, one picture has come to stand as iconic.
The picture was taken by Shannon Hicks, who works as an associate editor and photographer for Newtown, Connecticut’s local paper, the Newtown Bee. When she responded to the radio dispatch of gunshots at the elementary school, she suspected it was untrue.
“I thought it was going to be a false alarm,” she told TIME.
But when she arrived, she was confronted with a crowd where “Parents just started yelling their children’s names.” Police arrived in flak jackets and attempted to secure the area. After 10 minutes of clicking, she got the famed shot at 10:09 a.m., as an elementary school class was being led out of school by two police officers.
“I knew that, coming out of the building — as terrified as they were — those children were safe. I just felt that it was an important moment.”
It was that safe moment that the media chose to iconize, to remember the event that was a moment of chaos and the shattering of social restrains and safety.
The photo’s popularity has not assuaged Hicks’ wounds from the event, and she would like to forget the more disturbing pictures she took.