Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

December 15, 2012

Local parents saddened by shooting in Conn.

GREG JORDAN
Bluefield Daily Telegraph

BLUEFIELD — A tragedy hundreds of miles away sparked heartbreak and concern Friday for local parents who immediately thought of parents having to deal with unimaginable grief.

Word spread quickly of the shootings in a Connecticut elementary school that took the lives of 20 children and six adults. Parents picking their children up from school thought of the deaths.

“It’s terrible,” Peggy Burton of Bluefield said while getting her son at Bluefield Intermediate School. She watched her son run to the family van. “You want to take your kids out of school. You want them to be home and safe with you.”

Safety at local schools was one issue brought to mind. Burton’s sister, Carolyn Gibson, suggested keeping the front doors of schools locked and using an intercom system if people need to be admitted.

One Princeton resident with twin boys who attend a private school, Mercer Christian Academy, first learned of the shootings on Facebook and other social media.

“I’m heartbroken for those people for sure,” Jessica Basham, 39, said. “This is one of the reasons why I send my kids to a private Christian school. I’m not saying that something like that can’t happen there, but it’s less likely...to a point, I am going to shelter my kids because of this kind of stuff.”

Basham felt that being at the Christian school allows her and other parents to stay more in touch with their children’s lives at school.

“At Mercer Christian, I can walk into school any day of the week, go into my kids’ classes and see what’s going on. I think that’s part of the problem today – a lot of parents aren’t connecting at that level with their schools. A lot of parents don’t know whom their kids are hanging out with. I think this wouldn’t happen if parents were more involved.”

A local pastor thought of the eulogies his Connecticut colleagues would have to prepare for children. He has two sons; one in an early learning center and another in a local preschool. His first impulse was to think of his own children.

“I kept thinking of my 5-year-old son, and he’s of kindergarten age,” said Rev. Aaron Watkins of the First Christian Church in Bluefield. “I got to school and he was sleeping with the other kids on the floor, and I couldn’t help but think about the parents who had their children in that shooting, the grief they must be going through.”

“Being a pastor, too, I have done a funeral for a child. I can’t help but think about what the other pastors would say in their eulogies for those children who had died. Being a pastor, I know it’s one of the hardest things we have to do,” Watkins said.

Conducting funerals for adults who lived long lives is difficult, but the task is even greater when the services are for a child, especially for children “who died in an extremely violent manner,” Watkins concluded. He asked that people pray not only for the shooting victims, but the shooter and his family as well.

Sarah Caudill of Bluefield is a local speech pathologist that works in local schools. Her daughter will be entering school soon.

“She is 4 and hopefully she will be able to go into school next year,” Caudill said. “It’s certainly a tragedy that you hope you could avoid in any way, shape or form. All you can do once you’re in that situation is to try and protect all your children in that environment. I do know all schools in the area go through lock down procedures at least once a month.”

“It’s a horrible tragedy and your heart goes out to everybody, and you just want to go on your knees and pray for everybody. If it was my child, I don’t know what I would do,” Caudill added.

The idea of gunfire at a school is something that touches all parents whether their children are in preschool or a high school. One Glenwood resident with a daughter at Princeton High School thought of the tragic losses and the grief being felt.

“It makes me sick in my stomach,” said Amy Lester, 37, of Glenwood. “It’s just so heartbreaking. How could somebody do that? I just think about these poor little kids probably seeing their best friends shot to death in front of them. They’re going to be traumatized for life, probably. You think when you send your kids to school or anywhere, they’re going to be safe. Of course, nowadays, nowhere is safe. Not even your home. I happen to think with everything that happens now, it goes back on the drug problem. Until we get a handle on the drug problem, it’s just going to get worse.”

— Contact Greg Jordan at gjordan@bdtonline.com