Thank You to Teachers and Staff at Sandy Hook Elementary

A mom of two children on the autism spectrum pays tribute to the teachers and staff at Sandy Hook Elementary School.


It’s 5:15 on Saturday morning, and I know there’s not a chance in hell I’ll fall back asleep. I throw on my robe and make my way to my keyboard and wait for the blinking cursor to arrive, that pulsing strobe I know will mock me as I struggle for words.

For once, I don’t even know where to begin.

This won’t be a post about autism, although I will remind everyone reading this that whether or not Adam Lanza had Asperger’s or not, autism did not incite him to his murderous rampage. Mental illness did.

The fact that he may have been on the spectrum is no more important than the color of his eyes, or the fact that he was male, or white. Autism, in all its many forms, is not a mental illness.

Hopefully, I am preaching to the choir.

Like many people I try to make some sense of this tragedy by comparing it to others in the past, and by seeing it through the lens of many different roles, specifically those of child, parent and teacher. As I weeded my way through various media commentary on Friday afternoon I couldn’t help but think of Columbine.

I can remember my reactions to the event; disbelief, horror, and eventually just a deep sadness which remained for the children, parents, and school staff who endured such terror.

When Columbine occurred I was not yet a mother, and could only imagine the devastation that Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold wreaked on that terrible day. Now I am a mother, one whose youngest child turns six in a few short weeks, just like many of those lost to us forever.

Trust me, like many of you, the “what- ifs” running around my head regarding my children are without doubt my early morning wake-up culprits, and I don’t imagine they’re going anywhere very soon.

As I sit here in the wee hours of the morn I find I can’t stop thinking about those kids, yet I can’t write about them either. Perhaps it’s too close, too soon, but I can see them through the lenses of both mother and teacher, and it’s just too much.

I am so, so sorry for their parents, grandparents, and siblings.

I am so sorry for that entire community, who will be permanently marked by this loss, who can never fully recover from such a tragedy.

I am even deeply sorry for those children who survived, because they are not only old enough to remember the horrific events of this infamous day, they are also old enough to understand what happened. Their innocence has been robbed. Their childhoods have been stolen.

And yet, that’s nothing compared to all of those little lives lost.

No, as I sit here struggling with what to say that hasn’t already been said I know I’ll focus on the teachers, because although I’m no longer “practicing”, I’ll always be an educator.

I hope I would have acquitted myself with the smarts and grace of the teachers and staff of Sandy Hook Elementary, but I don’t think any of us can ever know how we’ll behave in a situation where the world has been turned upside down, where any semblance of sanity no longer exists.

I do know that the teachers and administrators who perished on Friday were the absolute heart of education. Each one demonstrated undeniable heroism, from the teacher who shielded her students with her own body, to the teacher who told her students she loved them in case those were the last words they ever heard, to the no-nonsense principal and school psychologist who rushed a madman with a gun.

I will be so bold as to say perhaps they wouldn’t even see themselves that way, because to many of us, their actions were just part of the job, a sacred trust. It’s one in which these days we are constantly called upon to protect the hearts and minds of our charges, thankfully in a setting usually not rife with violence.

On Friday, December 14th, that sacred trust was put into the extreme for six staff members who honored that covenant: Rachel Davino, Dawn Hocksprung, Anne Marie Murphy, Lauren Russeau, Mary Sherlach, and Victoria Soto. They were selfless. They willingly made the ultimate sacrifice.

They were heroes.

From me and my family, to their families and those who loved them, we send our prayers, and our love.

And one last thought for those who have fallen.

Thank you.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Patricia Schmus December 18, 2012 at 01:33 PM
Ms. Mccafferty, Thank you for your article. I am very appreciative of your comments regarding Asperger's Syndrome. My 23 year old son was diagnosed with a mild case of the disease when he was 10. Since then he has worked very hard both academically and socially to deal with everyday life. He attended a wonderful small college in New York and graduated cum laude in 2011. He then completed a one year master's degree at the University of Pennsylvania. He is working part time as a therapist because he said he wanted to give back like the people who assisted him. He had some rough spots along the way with depression but has met these challenges straight on and is doing quite well. As a mother, teacher, and parent the recent event has been horrifying and very upsetting to my son when people keep making comments incorrectly about Asperger's. Thank you for hopefully correcting the minds of some and look at the positives that the Asperger person can do. Pat Schmus
Joe R December 18, 2012 at 03:04 PM
Ms. McCafferty: Thank you for your thoughts and for clarifying the difference between Asperger's and mental illness, that Asperger's is not a mental illness. What has happened to our country, to our society that these horrific massacres can occur with sickening frequency? The easy availability of powerful rapid fire guns is a huge part of the problem.
Kimberlee Rutan McCafferty December 19, 2012 at 12:30 AM
Ms. Schmus, thank you for your kind words. Your son sounds like an amazing young man, and I am sure his clients will benefit from his personal experiences. Thanks for reading and responding!
Kimberlee Rutan McCafferty December 19, 2012 at 12:32 AM
Unfortunately, the clarification is still necessary. I hope there will come a time when that won't be the case. Thank you so much for taking the time to read the piece!
Joe R December 19, 2012 at 01:51 AM
Channel 7 news this evening had a segment emphasizing that Asperger's is not a mental illness and had nothing to do with the horrific rampage of the murderer. The principal and teachers were heroes, many gave their lives to save others. Actually, all the staff was very heroic; the custodian who ran through the halls warning the teachers and I believe he led a group of kids from the school and deposited them in the driveway of a neighboring house. The poor man who lived in the house and took care of the children was just shattered when he heard the stories that the kids told him; those poor children saw the worst of it. I hope people won't mind if I point out that these were unionized teachers, many of them with tenure. I have seen so many horrible comments made in comments sections about unionized teachers with tenure. The police and other first responders also did an excellent job taking charge of a horrible situation. (also unionized public sector workers)
Porterincollingswood December 19, 2012 at 08:48 PM
A point that seems to have been missed...the ONLY person who "diagnosed" the shooter with Aspergers was his mom, who appears to have been a world-class mess. She mentioned this to one or two people (possibly at a bar), and now it is being reported as fact by the media with no supporting evidence. Thanks to those who offered info on Aspergers. I that hope people (in an effort to explain the unexplainable or maybe deflect blame) stop smearing a group of people based on the anecdotal comments of a woman who - despite having AMPLE financial resources to get her some care - chose to make excuses and delude herself (and surround her and her kid with assault weapons).
Just my thoughts December 19, 2012 at 09:09 PM
While the debate rages on gun control, it seems following actions should be taken immediately to stop wrong use of gun by wrong people: * Gun fairs should not be allowed to sell guns without proper criminal and mental health check of the buyer and everyone in the household. * Annual renewal of gun license only upon mental and criminal check of gun owner and household. * When a criminal activity is reported, law enforcement should check the possibility of future gun use by the criminal * When a mental health issue is reported, health officials report to law enforcement who should check if the patient has access to guns. This I hope gains wide support as many blame moral decay and mental health to be the main problem.
jerseyswamps December 19, 2012 at 09:48 PM
? So non-union teachers would have shoved kids in between themselves and the shooter? Somehow because they were in a public union they behaved better than others would have behaved in a similar situation?
jerseyswamps December 19, 2012 at 09:53 PM
So, if you tell your doctor you are depressed and he prescribes meds the doctor then has to tell the police who now have to come banging on your door demanding to know what dangerous things are in the house. No problem here, right?
Porterincollingswood December 19, 2012 at 09:55 PM
What she means is that people probably now have a better appreciation for / opinion of a group of people who had been vilified by the public as of late. Kinda like cops and fireman after 9/11. Don't worry, it won't last long.
Joe R December 19, 2012 at 10:27 PM
jerseyswamps: I praised the whole staff, union or non-union, >>(' Actually, all the staff was very heroic...')<< I don't know why you're so offended because I pointed out that a good chunk of the staff were union people. I praised all the first responders, the firefighters were probably mostly volunteers, maybe the EMTs, too. Let me repeat, I praise all the people who helped and assisted at the terrible massacre, union, nonunion and the neighbors who chipped in.
Monk December 19, 2012 at 10:41 PM
Pointing out the union status of these teachers is irrelevant and provocative. The article isn't about budgets, benefits or taxes.
Barney December 19, 2012 at 11:19 PM
Hoe R., You lost any credibility you thought you had with the gun control debates in here. Go get a job and stay off of the Patch. You need to stop depending on richer and smarter people like Republicans to hand over thier money to you begging poor libs. You and the unions now need to do it on your own. Off to the pistol range. ta ta, B-licous
jerseyswamps December 19, 2012 at 11:47 PM
Joe, Monk got it right. Pointing out a good chunk of the people were union is irrelevant and provocative. Should we also point out that all the school heroes were white?
Monk December 20, 2012 at 03:20 PM
And to add sacrilege to injury, Obama yesterday exploited the tragedy to push his tax hike: “After what we’ve gone through over the past several months, a devastating hurricane and now one of the worse tragedies in our memory, the country deserves the folks to be willing to compromise for the greater good.”
Porterincollingswood December 20, 2012 at 04:18 PM
Insofar as he used those examples, it was in response to backlash from liberals over his proposed cuts to Social Security and Medicare. The precise line items that he said he wouldn't touch when he was campaigning a few months ago. But don't let facts get in the way of a indignant nonsense post. Nice to see Winston is back BTW.
Joe R December 20, 2012 at 08:31 PM
BALTIMORE SUN EDITORIAL (12/19/12): The heroes of Newtown: Our view: The strength and courage of teachers and school staff—the kind of public employees so often scorned of late—are the revelation of Sandy Hook [snip] Yet how many among us should stand ashamed today for showing so little respect for such public employees—mocking teachers, in particular, for their cost to taxpayers in salary and benefits—and failing to appreciate how willingly many educators stand prepared to lay down their lives for our children? Link: http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/opinion/bs-ed-educators-20121218,0,6383452.story
Monk December 20, 2012 at 11:01 PM
There is still no justification for conflating the school slaughter with budgets, benefits or taxes. So no one should be ashamed for advocating fiscal responsibility when that is the issue. Please stop desecrating the memory of the deceased with this political nonsense.
Henry Dudley December 26, 2012 at 11:38 PM
Well done Kimberlee, well done. Thanks
Project Bluebeam December 30, 2012 at 01:44 AM
Apparently someone never heard of Stalin, Hitler, and Mao. No, I don't want a government bureaucrat having access to any citizens health records. I guess if you lost your job and became depressed you would have no problem with DYFS taking your kids away? P.S. a drunk driver could kill more people on a crowded street than a handgun could.
frank rizzo December 30, 2012 at 05:04 AM
hey barney i,m glad the patch finally banned you. i guess even the patch finally got tired of your racist rants.buh bye barney. monk nesflash if republicans in congress dont wake up from their coma everyone is getting a tax hike. yes monk the worst shooting tragedy and storm we,ve ever seen . i guess to you thats not note worthy enough for a president to bring up. listen the mannequin you guys ran for president lost. get over it already.
Eyeballs December 30, 2012 at 07:29 AM
Real mental illness is exhibited by people who do nothing but post to news websites. These people believe they are experts in everything but a reading of their posts shows how shallow and ill informed they are. Do you agree Joe R?
Simon Ralph December 30, 2012 at 01:28 PM
What happened the day before this tragic event? He was there the day before this happened and there was an altercation with 4 staff. What were the signs that day? Why weren't the police involved then?


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