We had a lovely weekend this week. Hazel and I left Friday to visit my parents to help decorate their Christmas tree and then Steve joined us on Saturday so all five of us went on a Polar Express Train Trip. I will tell you more about that at Happy Family Times on Tuesday.
It was very hard in the middle of this nice experience to turn on the television and hear about the tragedy that happened in Connecticut on Friday. (For those who may not know what I am talking about here is a report from CNN.) Now this tragedy hit me on many levels. First I grew up in Connecticut and have many friends and family who still live there. As a former teacher all school shootings really scare me. I think of my students and my friends who still are teaching. Plus a close friend from high school is an elementary school principal in Connecticut somewhat close to Newtown. Then add to all of those reasons that this happened in an elementary school and really could have happened anywhere. It was not like many of the other shootings where the shooter was out to get people who had hurt him, but rather this shooter went to the school where his mother worked and shot innocent children and staff. I know I was thankful that Hazel was not up to see the news (we wouldn't have had it on if she was) and that we have decided to send her to a Waldorf School where I feel they are a bit more protected.
However, Sandy Hook Elementary School had the security set up. They had recently installed a lock where the front office could see who was at the door before buzzing them in. I could not at first understand why they buzzed him in given how he was dressed and his mother was not there then. However later I heard there was broken glass which made much more sense. He shot his way in. So here this school had done what it could to protect the children, and still had such a horrible tragedy. How do we cope with that and how do we explain it to our children?
With Hazel's age, we are doing our best of her to know nothing about this event. We want her to feel safe in her world and at her school. However I know with older children you cannot keep such news from them. I was teaching when the Columbine Shooting occurred. I remember being glad it occurred during our April vacation so we all had time to digest what had happened. I also remember high school juniors telling me that they went over escape plans with their parents should anything like this happen at our school. (They literally went through the students schedule to figure ways out of the building from each classroom.) This was in response to something that happened on the other side of the country and not a neighboring state.
Now if teenagers were that fearful, I can only imagine how elementary students must feel now. I think the most important thing as adults is for us to be there for the children. If they need to talk, listen and reassure them. It is important for us to remain our calm and let them feel safe. The National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) have some great tips on helping children deal with a national tragedy here.
My heart goes out to the family of all the victims including the survivors. I pray to God to help all who were present that day and especially the young children that witnessed death that day. I know there have been stories of teachers who were shot while protecting their students. I can only imagine what those children will deal with knowing that. It breaks my heart that children so young have to deal with such violence. I hope you will join me in taking time today to say a prayer for all who have been touched by this act of violence and for God to help the families and the survivors process this horrible event.