The events of Friday at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. are hard to understand.
Why it happened is the biggest mystery at this point. But there is one thing for sure. Heroes come in all sizes, sexes and professions.
Elementary schools are supposed to be a safe haven for kids; the safest of all the public schools. Yet in this case, and in some others in the past they became places of terror.
The people who work in elementary schools, who teach our children, watch them on the playground, give them counseling, serve them lunch and clean the floors are united by a common bond. It is that of taking care of small kids to those approaching their teenage years.
It is a big calling. Anyone who has their own kids knows it is a tough job to raise them, and these people who have dedicated their lives to educating young people are a special part of that upbringing.
There were a lot of heroes on Friday in that school. Teachers who led their kids to safety by hiding them away, and others who took bullets that ended their lives trying to protect the children.
We should ask ourselves the commitment that it takes to defend someone when you know your own impending death is almost sure to be the result?
It would have been easy for people to run away from the gunman. But from what I can tell no one did.
The principal and the school psychologist were meeting when he broke in through a secure door. They ran out to confront him and both were killed.
As he headed to the first grade classrooms one teacher was able to stuff seven kids into a closet and then stood up to the gunman who in his cowardice shot her and six small children to death with a semi-automatic rifle.
Another was able to get all the kids from her classroom into a bathroom and lock the door. He apparently came to the door and tried to get in. Keeping just under two dozen small children completely quiet in a totally freaked out environment must have been almost impossible. Somehow he did not shoot through the door and left to go after other people.
It is hard to imagine the fear that the adults felt, much less the children. Yet the teachers and staff acted accordingly, secreting children away into spots where he could not find them. True their training on school security did kick in, but just the same they did it like the professionals they are.
I had the opportunity to work in two elementary schools in the Salt Lake area over a period of five years, during my 20s. In some ways the people that worked in those schools became more of my family than my family was. There is a bond that exists between members of a faculty and staff that is hard to describe. Not everything is always hunky-dory; there are differences, arguments, and dysfunctional situations in all workplaces. These places were no exception. But the common goal of the staff at these schools was to see that the kids got the best care and best education any of us could give them.
On Friday, having worked in a schools similar to Sandy Hook, I imagined what it could have been like if that had happened when I worked in one.
I knew most of the teachers so well in those schools that I can tell you they would have acted very much like those on Friday did. I could have seen the principals rushing out to stop someone, despite the fact the guy was heavily armed. I can imagine many of those teachers taking a bullet for the kids they taught and loved.
The culture within the elementary schools I worked in was strong; during my years at both we lost people that worked there to death, and we lost kids in the same way. It just bonded us together closer.
In my life some of the most influential people in my life, beyond my parents and my wife, were teachers. Growing up I wanted to be a teacher, not because they had summers off, or got lots of holidays (both ideas from a kid's point of view) but because what they do is such a high calling. They are all heroes in their own way already. In all my years in public education, I can say that I only had one teacher who was a jerk; all the rest cared about me as an individual.
And that is where it is at. Many teachers call their classes "their kids." And for that year they are together they do become their kids, not only for the good, but also for the bad, because things are never simple.
Our teachers, in our schools here in Carbon County, are the same. They are the potential heros that we all would look to protect our kids in a similar situation.
So it is with that, that we owe them our respect and support as they go about the difficult job of molding young minds into critically thinking adults.
And we need to thank them for protecting our kids everyday.