Many of us attended church on Sunday; I'm not sure if it was because of the upcoming Christmas holiday or the overwhelming need to pray for the families affected by the shooting in Connecticut Dec. 14.
Sermons throughout our area were focused on trying to make sense of this event as well as trying to cope with the overwhelming grief all Americans feel, especially so close to the joyous season of Christmas.
At First Presbyterian Church of Allentown, Pastor Stephen T. Emick led a prayer quoting the song, "How Can We Sing a Joyful Song?" by Carolyn Winfrey Gillette, who asks the question, "when pain and grief seem all too strong, how can we sing a joyful hymn?" The answer is that "in our grief, we are not alone" and "in Christ, we will be whole again."
Shining through the grief are the acts of heroism displayed by the first responders, staff and administrators at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
Administrators were said to have confronted the gunman, a custodian was said to have run down the hall warning of danger and teachers protected the kids by placing them in safe places prearranged during their emergency drills and training. It was reported police officers and first responders calmly and safely ushered the students out of the school to safety.
In an interview with Diane Sawyer for ABC News, Sandy Hook Elementary School first grade teacher Kaitlin Roig described how she rushed her 15 students into a bathroom, placing a bookcase in front of the door and locking it to keep the children safe. Despite her fears, she helped to keep the children calm, telling them the bad guys were out there but they were to be quiet while they waited for the good guys to come get them.
"In my mind, I'm thinking, 'We're next' ....so I said to them, 'I need you to know that I love you all very much and it's going to be ok.' I thought we were all going to die ... I wanted them to know someone loved them, and I wanted that to be one of the last things they heard, not the gunfire in the hallway," Roig said.
These heroes in Connecticut prevented additional deaths because of the people they are.
Teachers choose their profession to help guide children and often are asked to perform duties not taught in any college classroom such as compassion. I've worked with, and have known teachers in the Lehigh Valley who have food in their classrooms for students they know are hungry, who bring in clothes and winter coats for students needing them or provide school supplies for their students when budgeted money has been exhausted. I have no doubt that the teachers we all know and love would show the same protective instincts for all of our children should a similar situation occur here.
The law enforcement and emergency personnel, who train for situations like this, were first on the horrific scene in Connecticut and confronted the unthinkable.
Our law enforcement personnel are trained for situations like this and work with the school districts to provide a safe learning environment for our students.
Our fire company volunteers often put themselves in harm's way to help save a life.
I thank the teachers and administrators for taking such good care of my children and the fire company volunteers and law enforcement personnel for keeping my community safe.
These are the heroes among us.
May God give us the strength to understand this tragic loss.
East Penn Press