CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Lisa Petrovich remembers Dawn Hochsprung as "a force to be reckoned with." But she knew how to have fun, too.
Just before she died, Hochsprung, the principal at Sandy Hook Elementary School, texted Petrovich a picture of her dressed as "the reading fairy," going class to class.
Hochsprung died when she tried to take down a gunman at the Newtown, Conn., school in December. Six adults and 20 children were shot and killed that day when shooter Adam Lanza invaded the building.
"As sad as I was, I was not surprised by what she did," said Petrovich, a West Virginia native and Newtown resident whose children attended Sandy Hook.
"Now there's a collective sadness in everyone's eyes. When you go to the grocery store and someone asks how you are, you know why they're asking."
Petrovich spoke about her friendships with the adults who lost their lives in the Sandy Hook tragedy and how it's affected her community at the West Virginia Safe Schools Summit on Wednesday.
The all-day event was hosted by U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin and featured national school violence speaker Lt. Col. Dave Grossman, as well as panels made up of educators, law enforcement, counselors and other stakeholders across the state.
Petrovich remembers the smile on young Victoria Soto's face when she first got her job at Sandy Hook. She recalls school counselor Mary Sherlock's dedication to helping young people.
"I always think it's ironic that she was killed by the type of child she helped every day," Petrovich said.
Petrovich had a message for the people in the audience at the state Culture Center on Wednesday morning: It can happen to you.
"Not to scare anyone here, but my children went to that school. ... I felt incredibly safe. It's tucked away -- you can't see it from the street, and they were very strict about letting people in the school. We even nicknamed our secretary, 'Sarge,'" she said. "If it can happen there, it can happen anywhere. I hate saying that, but it's true."
The tragedy has been life changing for Petrovich and the Sandy Hook community, but she's learned to use her experience as a way to urge other school systems to take preventative action, she said.
"People are sad, but at the same time, there's a call to action," she said. "Whether it be for mental health issues or gun control, people are taking steps to make a positive change.
"For all of us, that's the only thing that can make sense -- if some kind of positive change comes out of this," she said. "Don't forget us."
Reach Mackenzie Mays at mackenzie.m...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-4814.