Georgetown University Rallies Around Student Whose Mother Died in Conn. Tragedy

By Darcy Spencer
|  Tuesday, Dec 18, 2012  |  Updated 9:35 PM EDT
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PHOTOS: Newtown School Shooting


Mark and Mary Sherlach

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The death of a Georgetown University student’s mother in the massacre in Newtown, Conn., prompted a professor at the school to launch an online fundraising effort.

Sandy Hook Elementary School psychologist Mary Sherlach lunged at the gunman after he entered the school, trying to stop him from going on his rampage before she was shot and killed.

Her daughter Katy was with her fellow researchers in the chemistry lab when she learned of the shooting at the school.

“It was really, really difficult, as you can imagine,” chemistry Professor Paul Roepe said.

They were hoping for the best, Roepe said.

“But it was clear as day went on and we heard nothing from her mom, the news kept getting worse and worse, that it could be very bad news,” he said.

The doctoral student would later learn that her mother was among the dead.

“You work with someone as closely as Katy has worked with everyone in the group and you get to know somebody pretty well, and we all knew her family,” Roepe said.

Researchers in the lab have been trying to support Katy. They plan to attend her mother's wake and funeral later this week.

“When I learned that it was a Georgetown doctoral student who was affected, I couldn’t sleep,” said Georgetown Law Professor Heidi Li Feldman said.

She didn’t know Katy, but she organized an online fundraising page with a goal of $5,000 that already has collected more than $6,000 to help Katy with expenses.

“To provide opportunity for people to give as well as to benefit Katy seemed important,” Feldman said.

While it is quiet and somber in the lab, there is also hope that Katy will get through and return to finish her work.

“I think doing the Ph.D. means a lot to her,” Roepe said. “I know it meant a lot a lot to her mom, and I think she'll want to do it for both of those reasons.”

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