I braced for yesterday like I was strapped into an amusement park ride and it was too late to ask to be let off. What if any of my students had relatives, friends or family who had been victims? What if they asked something I didn't know how to answer? What if I burst into tears and upset them more? I wanted to do it right, but I was scared. I was worried that my own children would come home from school more upset than when they had left because of things that would be said or shared at school. My stomach was in knots.
Then, shockingly, not a word of it was spoken by any of my students until dismissal yesterday. It was so brief and fleeting, and I was so caught off guard that I honestly don't even remember exactly what she said, and then she was gone. We were asked not to bring it up unless the students did, and when they didn't, I felt off. I felt like my not mentioning it was in some ways even more upsetting than bringing it up. I felt as if my silence, well-intentioned though it was, had sent them the message that it wasn't ok to talk about it. About their fears or feelings.
Today, it all came out. All of it. Questions and more questions. Why are there more police driving around? There was a police officer at school this morning--why? What do I do if I'm in the bathroom when they call the code red and then all the doors are locked and I'm stuck alone? Oh, sweet girl. Just sobbing even thinking of that little one's fears. I tried to be reassuring, focus on them knowing they are safe and cared for, and all of the things we've been asked to do. I was relieved that it was no longer the elephant in the room
Tonight, a friend and I drove right from school to attend Victoria Soto's wake and pay our respects to this brave colleague that we never met. We never made it in, because after two hours on line, we weren't even close to the door of the funeral home--that's how many people were there for this young woman who was so brave for her kids. Hundreds and hundreds of them, too many to count. It was both wonderful, and desperately sad. I've always been proud to be a teacher, but never more than now.