The usual school drop-off routine didn’t feel usual this morning. I dropped my son off at Kindergarten in Brooklyn and after I kissed him goodbye and walked out of the room, I felt a sense of dread. I’m sure a lot of parents did this morning. It was a tough morning.
School is supposed to be a safe place, but how can you feel that after Friday? In truth, I’ve been feeling that little pang ever since his first day of pre-K because every time you leave them in school, you leave them vulnerable to the world. You never think a mentally disturbed man with a semi-automatic gun is going to barge in but there are little ways in which their innocence is chipped away day by day because school is–sort of–the real world. Our kids need to learn to live in the real world, we know, but we also long for them to retain their innocence as long as possible.
The buffer, we hope, is their teachers. They do more than talk about arithmetic and reading, they ease them into the larger world. My son’s teacher’s apartment was destroyed in hurricane Sandy but he never knew. She was there every day with the same big smile.
This morning I asked her if Friday made today tougher for her. She said yes–but she was going to make sure it was a normal day for them. At Sandy Hook, I’m sure the teachers would’ve done the same, protecting those kids figuratively. But they had to protect them literally. And they responded with the courage of true heroes.
Victoria Soto, the 27-year-old who’d dreamed of teaching, hid her kids in a closet as soon as she heard gunfire. When the gunman came to her door she said her kids had gone to the gym; then she apparently stepped in front of his gun. We know this because the kids hiding in the closet told police how she saved them. She’s a hero. Every parent would want a teacher to be so smart and courageous and so selfless in the face of danger.
I’m sure there are many teachers who would rise to the occasion. There were many in Sandy Hook. People who hid kids in locked rooms or helped them climb out of windows, who acted quickly and intelligently and courageously to save lives. People like Dawn Hochsprung, the principal, and Mary Sherlach, the psychologist, who ran toward the gunshots and tried to stop the gunman, and lost their lives trying to save kids.
America’s heart aches thinking about about this American tragedy, but as we saw, here were heroes who showed valor and mettle. People who responded to the worst humanity has to offer, with the best humanity can possibly be.