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Protectors of hope

Published: Saturday, Dec. 22, 2012 4:59 a.m. CDT

(Continued from Page 2)

For a lot of families in Connecticut, there will bescant if any Christmas celebration. The holiday will never be the same for them.

In memory of those tragically killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School, I’m turning this week’s space over to a friend of mine. Lani Hammond taught school in the U.S. for 16 years and for the past 3 years has taught in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. With her permission, here are her comments:

I woke this morning to the news of slaughter in Connecticut. My first images were of our tiny Daniel James, who each morning grabs his backpack and heads to preschool. He skips and giggles and wonders what exciting place they will visit through books and art and play. My next thought was of the evenings, many years ago, when Daniel would come home from elementary school and talk assuredly and confidently of his teacher’s vast knowledge of everything.

For the children of Sandy Hook, they too skipped and giggled, loved their teachers, settled important issues on the playground with rounds of Rock-Paper-Scissors and occasionally a punch or two. The principal walked th school proudly, watching the teachers mold and love the children and seeing the children grow in confidence and ability.

But something happened today. A sadness, an evil, a wickedness none of us can even begin to understand robbed and slayed the wonder, the innocence, the order of childhood.

I remember after Columbine, my 5th graders returning to school with the question, “Ms. Hammond, will you protect us if that ever happened to us?” It was a true question and a question that hurt hearing. Why should they even have to think about that? But they were thinking about it and they needed to know. Without fail my response was, “Yes.” End of discussion; they were ready to go to work.

After 9/11 the same thing: “Ms. Hammond, will you protect us?” and again “Yes.” And, again they were ready to get back to work. They simply needed to be reminded that while the evil of the world lurks and stalks, parents and teachers are on guard. They needed to hear strength.

The children of Sandy Hook were surrounded by strength today as teachers, administration, and staff worked to protect the little ones from the assault that invaded their kingdom. Many died in the act. Many hid their children. Many were able to think quickly and act with bravery as they directed children to safety.

Teachers protected the children with selflessness because of the love and the bond that grows between a teacher and a student. And for most of us, while your child is in our class, we really do love them as our own. We, too, have dreams, hope and ambition for them and want them to walk through their childhood collecting the tools and the confidence needed to build their futures.

So, I was not surprised to read about the acts of bravery that abounded during the attack of evil. I was proud and celebrated the actions of sacrifice and strength the staff acted with to protect the children.

Life for the surviving children has been changed forever. While they saw bravery, they unfortunately saw destruction. They heard danger, they smelled hatred, they tasted fear and they touched hopelessness. They experienced death in the most despicable of ways — through someone’s loathsome, detestable, twisted mind. In a moment of time this beast was able to turn a childhood into doubt and fear.

The beast entered not just the childhood but also the family. The beast has placed a burden of bleakness in the center of the Home. The beast left a mark in the School. The beast has sowed doubt and mistrust in the hallways. Places that were once abundant in laughter and hope are now places that echo malevolence. Places that encouraged growth and amazement are now places where suspicion and sadness will have to be cut back to prevent them from growing too deeply into the children’s spirit.

For the children and the staff of Sandy Hook, life changed today. For the families of Sandy Hook, life took a course none of them should have to travel. For teachers everywhere, the roll of protector just became more vital. For our nation, sadness has marred The American Dream.

Monday students across America will look at their teachers and wonder, “Will you protect me?” Monday across America teachers will answer resoundingly, “Yes.”

And to the beast, children will not stop skipping and giggling and solving issues with a round of Rock-Paper-Scissors. Hope is eternal and we are protectors of the hope.

@Copyright 2012 by David Porter who can be reached at dporter@illinoispress.org.

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