School Shooting Shatters a Safe Haven

Long Beach Poly High School football coach Raul Lara leads his team and the Granite Bay Grizzlies in prayer for the school shooting victims in Newtown, Connecticut shortly after the California Division I State Championship football game in Carson, California. Photo Credit: Dennis J. Freeman
Long Beach Poly High School football coach Raul Lara leads his team and the Granite Bay Grizzlies in prayer for the school shooting victims in Newtown, Connecticut shortly after the California Division I State Championship football game in Carson, California. Photo Credit: Dennis J. Freeman

When parents drop off their children at school in the morning they don’t think about that their encouraging good-byes to those wide-eyed angels will be their last. They don’t take them to their daytime safe haven not to see them come home again. It do not even cross your mind. The routine becomes part of your everyday life. As a parent, school days tend to be typical in exercise.

You wake up early, rouse the kids out of their angelic sleep, have them showered and dressed, eat breakfast and then rush them out the door for a day of academic learning. The ritual becomes clockwork as getting up and fixing a cup of coffee or a bowl of cereal. You don’t think twice about it.

As a parent, my wife and I either walk or drive our eight-year-old daughter to school, blow a big kiss to her and then watch adoringly as she flashes that great big smile of hers before she bounces off past the chain-linked fence to the play yard of the school she attends. An elementary school playground is usually full of little ones running around and playing with boundless energy.

It is a beautiful sight to see, watching all these small bundles of joy escape into their own world of fun, laughter and imagination. Twenty children attending Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut went to school last Friday to have fun, learn and to imagine. Six educators, some with children of their own, left their homes that day to advocate academic growth for their young students.

All of them, no doubt, believed they would be home in the arms of their loved ones at the end of the day. They never made it home. They never made it there because a warped-minded assassin violently invaded the school and took their lives with an assault weapon, moments after shooting his own mother in the face and killing her.

Published reports have come out and stated that each victim of the mass shooting suffered at least three bullet wounds, some as many as 11. Innocence was lost that day. Joy has been replaced by indescribable anguish. Laughter has been suffocated by overwhelming grief. For the time being, sorrow has buried hope and inspiration. The parents of those 20 dead children are now left behind with unspeakable pain.

Those related to the six educators at the school have lost their own hero.  Our nation mourns and wonders why and how could this tragedy occur? Our children are not supposed to go to school to die. For many students across the country, school is a safe haven. This is a place where they can thrive. School is a place where they are not strange. They build friendships. Children learn to interact and develop their social skills.

School can be an insulated asylum for some students, becoming a necessary vacuum away from the perils of domestic violence, abuse or emotional torment. For others, going to school can be the one place where they can build confidence in themselves and become a helping hand to their fellow students. It is a place of both personal and public development.

School is where teachers become every day heroes. It is the one place of normalcy and routine for students. And now that has been taken away.

The world lost 26 wondrously beautiful angels. Sandy Hook Elementary School and the community of Newtown lost 26 heroes. Twenty young people will not have the chance to go on a date, attend their high school prom or get married and have children of their own. They won’t be able to go on field trips anymore or fulfill their heart’s desire.

Six-year-old Jessica Reskos will never get to ride the horse she asked her parents to get her. Six-year-old Jack Pinto will not have the opportunity to meet Victor Cruz of the New York Giants. The life of a child is precious. They are the generation we are charged to protect from the wicked scars of danger-seen and unseen. Whether it happens on the streets of Chicago, in the inner city hub of South Los Angeles or in a quiet community such as Newtown, when we lose one child, we all hurt.

That was evident everywhere regardless of race, financial status or career.  Losing 20 young children to gun violence at an elementary school have rocked the core of who we are as Americans. Everyone, in some form or another, has been affected by this unfathomable tragedy. That was keenly noticeable at sporting events throughout the past few days, from the NFL to the NBA and crossing over to high school sports.

A moment of silence for the victims played throughout the weekend at various sports events across the country. Long Beach Poly High School football coach Raul Lara went a step further than others. Lara, after his team had lost to Granite Bay High School in the California Division I State Championship game, called on players and coaches from both squads to gather at midfield to pray for the victims and their families.

A longtime probation officer, Lara said what happened in Newtown can happen anywhere.

“I think people need to understand that it could have happened over here,” Lara said. “It is a tragedy. It’s been on everybody’s mind. We need to realize this is a football game and we’re actually blessed to even mention it. I hope everyone looks at this and sees the seriousness that there might be something going on with this world that we need to actually wake up.

“There’s a reason why that kid did what he did and somebody needs to figure it out. There’s a reason why kids get in trouble, and a lot of time it is because there’s nobody supporting them. I think people need to understand that. If we can support every kid it would be great.”

If we can do that we can save other families from the unbearable suffering that the Newtown community have been left with.



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