By Tamas Mondovics
Last month’s Sandy Hook Elementary School rampage that took the lives of 20 children—most of them first grade students—as well as six adults, is without a doubt among the worst school shootings in U.S. history.
Authorities have confirmed that the victims were all shot with a high-powered, military-style rifle loaded with ammunition designed to inflict maximum damage and that all victims had been shot multiple times, adding to the horror of the day.
While the people of Newtown Connecticut, are doing their best to cope with the loss and preserve the memories of their loved ones, they are joined by those whose heart continues to ache for the victims not only throughout the nation, but the world over.
As the news of the tragedy came to light, school districts near and far wasted no time to do whatever was necessary in hopes of trying to bring a sense of security back to their communities and classrooms.
On Sunday, two days following the shooting, Hillsborough School Superintendent, MaryEllen Elia, sent out an automated phone messages to staff and to parents notifying them of the district’s plans for school on Monday and beyond.
In her message, Elia explained that the district worked closely with Hillsborough County Sheriff, David Gee, and Tampa Police Chief, Jane Castor, to increase the law enforcement presence at all the schools – especially the elementary schools – on Monday.
The head of psychological services was also on hand to share tips with principals, while plans were put in place for school psychologists to be ready to respond, if necessary.
“We will continue to work closely with the Hillsborough County School Board, HCSO will be increasing our visibility at the elementary schools in unincorporated Hillsborough County,” Gee said. “This increase in patrols will help reassure teachers, parents and their children that their safety is a top priority for HCSO”.
Gee said that the department is 100 percent committed to support the school district until a long-term solution can be figured out.
HCSO spokes person Larry McKinnon said that such future, long- term plans may possibly include the installation of school resource deputies, such as those now serving area middle and high schools.
The greater law enforcement presence did not go unnoticed as Karmen, a student at Mango Elementary School, hand-delivered a special thank-you to Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Cpl. Lance Connors for safeguarding her school the days following the news of the killings.
Connors, said that as Karmen walked past him and he greeted her with “Good morning,” the little girl stopped, turned around and reached into her backpack, removing a folded piece of notebook paper that read, “Dear Officers thank you for making my school safe; Merry Christmas.”
The note ended with a drawing of a heart and a signature; “Karmen.”
After reading the note, Connors had just a moment to shout a quick “thank you” as the young student headed safely off to class.
To show Newtown and the Bay Area what a caring community FishHawk truly is, one of its resident, Shawn Trotti, a wife and mother of two daughters, spearheaded the organizing of a walk as a tribute to the students and staff at Sandy Hook Elementary as well as the community’s first responders.
“I was searching Facebook for different tributes when I came across Walk 27, a page that encourages people around the world to honor the victims by walking together, wearing the school colors green and white,” Trotti said.
After sending the word out and hoping for perhaps a few close friends to walk with, Trotti was joined by close to 60 fellow FishHawk residents and led the group on the walk that made a stop—accompanied by a prayer—at FishHawk and Bevis Elementary, Randall Middle and Newsome High Schools respectively.
By way of a thank-you note, a kind word, a heightened sense of security or community effort, people around the world continue to mourn the events of that sad day, thus joining and drawing ever closer to one another in support of those whose lives were tragically cut short.
For more information about Hillsborough County Public Schools, please visit www.sdhc.k12.fl.us.