How Teachers React to the Newtown School Shooting

Patch editor David Mills describes how his wife and two daughters, all teachers, reacted to Friday's school shooting and how "looking for the helpers" can be of assistance

— Although the gunman’s motive remains unclear, pieces of the timeline, emergency response and investigation into Friday’s horrifying shooting came into focus Saturday as state police addressed the media at a park near Sandy Hook Elementary School.

My 33-year-old daughter arrived at my house on Friday afternoon and immediately turned on the television.

Melinda knew her 2-year-old daughter was safely asleep, taking a nap in our back bedroom.

She wanted to see the latest news and reaction to the Connecticut school shooting, a massacre that hit close to home for all the teachers in my life.

Melinda teaches kindergartners at St. Isidore Catholic School in Danville. Kids the same age as many of those shot to death at Sandy Hook Elementary.

After she heard about the shooting, Melinda stared at those 5-year-olds running around the playground, trying to fathom what it would be like to have 20 of them senselessly gunned down.

Melinda is an emphatic person, second probably only to her mother. She listened with teary eyes to the parents and children talking about the tragedy.

When she was certain her husband had picked up their 6-year-old son, Shea, from school, she called to hear his voice. She asked how he was and told him she loved him, all the time trying not to let him know she was crying.

My wife, Mary, came home a few minutes later. She teaches 5-year-olds at Creative Learning Center in Alamo. She said parents were picking up their children early today after hearing the news. It's a common emotion among parents. You just want to see and hold your child after something like this.

Mary and Melinda cried together while watching President Obama's reaction to the shooting. They cried when they talked about the Connecticut teacher who huddled with her students in a closet. The youngsters were telling their teacher they wanted to have Christmas and she assured them that they would.

When my granddaughter, Mary Kate, awoke, I carried her out to my daughter. Melinda hugged her little girl as hard as you can hug a child without breaking a bone.

My 29-year-old daughter checked in, too. She teaches a combination first and second grade class in San Leandro.

Katherine was involved in a lockdown last school year. She turned off the lights and locked the door with her students. Police were only looking for a burglary suspect in that instance. They caught him and nobody fired any shots.

On Friday, Katherine simply hugged all her students as they came in from recess. You do that because you can.

What do you tell children about this tragedy? Twenty children, some of whom probably weren't old enough to know how to tie their shoes.

Fred Rogers may have provided the best advice. The man who played Mister Rogers on television once said that whenever he saw disturbing news on television, his mother would tell him to "look for the helpers."

She said there was always people helping those who were hurt. Focus on them.

That may be the best thing we can offer to our children.

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