Newtown tragedy hits home: Parents, community leaders and clergy react
By Bob Okon and BRIAN STANLEY Bokon@stmedianetwork.com Bstanley@stmedianetwork.com December 15, 2012 4:48PM
Parents leave a staging area after being reunited with their children following a shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. where authorities say a gunman opened fire, leaving 27 people dead, including 20 children, Friday, Dec. 14, 2012. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)
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“It’s just sad,” Joyce Curie said of the Newtown, Conn., shootings.
Curie and another mother at a Christmas event held Saturday at a Joliet elementary school talked about how much they were troubled by the shootings.
“It not only affects the people in Connecticut,” Curie said.
She and Ternasha Martin both said they have new worries about the safety of their children in school.
“It makes you leery,” Martin said. “Whoever thought you’d have to worry about sending your kids to school so they could better themselves?”
They were hardly alone in their anxiety.
Police had extra patrols at grade schools in Joliet on Friday in reaction to the shootings in Connecticut.
Chief Mike Trafton said no similar threats had been made to local police, but showing the presence of law enforcement was the right thing to do.
“School safety is something that has to be taken very seriously. That’s why we constantly practice lockdown drills at every school and fully train for active shooter scenarios,” Trafton said.
Those drills are conducted at elementary, junior high and high schools. Many local schools regularly have an armed school resource officer on duty.
“The safety and security of our students and staff is a top priority for our school district,” said Joliet Grade Schools District 86 Supt. Charles Coleman.
“We have existing emergency procedures in place at all schools, and all visitors must be identified before they are permitted to enter any school building,” Coleman said. “In addition, we appreciate the fact that the Joliet Police Department is providing patrol cars in the area of all of our schools.”
Valley View School Supt. James Mitchem on Saturday issued a message to parents and guardians, offering a list of tips from the National Association of School Psychologists on how to help children deal with news of the tragedy.
“Our school social workers, counselors and administrators will be ready on Monday morning to respond to students as needed,” Mitchem wrote in an email. “But in the hours and days ahead, it will be important to spend time talking with your children and helping them cope with this news.”
Church leaders, too, were looking for ways to talk to people about what happened in Connecticut.
Pastor Craig Herr of the First Presbyterian Church of Joliet said he heard on Friday from a schoolteacher who “was just in tears because she had spent her whole life teaching kids.”
Herr said the Sunday service will start out with prayers for victims and their families and a Bible reading that he hopes will help people deal with the impact of the tragedy.
“I think we should be praying,” Herr said. “Jesus is the prince of peace. We should pray that he will bring more peace and that little children will be taken care of.”