Waterbury teacher George Flaherty Jr. fought tears as he sat beside his eight-year-old daughter Margaret in a Waterbury church tonight praying for the victims of last week’s mass shooting at Newtown’s Sandy Hook Elementary School. “I am a teacher. I’m a parent. This could happen to any of us.”
Flaherty was joined by nearly 1500 people at tonight’s Mass at The Basilica of the Immaculate Conception where 26 candles bearing the names of the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting lit the altar.
Father Dennis Connell spoke of the tragedy and senselessness of the deaths of 20 children and six adults at the school. He explained that the purpose of tonight’s Mass was to honor the educators who made heroic efforts to protect their students. “They made a difference to the very last moment.” Referring to the man who gunned down the victims, Father Connell said, “Educators ran toward him, not away, trying to stop him.”
Kevin Egan, the president of the Waterbury Teachers Association, thanked the church community and the city’s mayor for providing tonight’s “opportunity to grieve and pay tribute to our fallen colleagues.”
NEA President Dennis Van Roekel traveled from Washington to join the service. He said that “last week’s shootings established in our minds that it can happen anywhere.”
Speaking of the victims, he said, “We can best honor their memory as a society by making sure we confront the cause of this head on. The best way, and perhaps the only way to prove that we can make this work, is by coming together—educators, parents, and all citizens of conscience—and doing whatever it takes to protect our children.”
Van Roekel added, “We owe it to the students who lost their lives Friday and we owe it to the educators who died putting themselves in harm’s way trying to stop evil from falling on their students.”
Waterbury Mayor Neil M. O’Leary told the teachers assembled in the church tonight that they are “unsung heroes.” He continued, “We must learn to listen more to teachers and administrators, since they are in the trenches. It amazes me how many decisions are made without teacher input.”
O’Leary continued, “We have turned into a society of taking things for granted. I say we should never take our children’s education for granted, and we should support our teachers and give them the resources they need to teach our children, instead of putting all our emphasis on test scores.”
I totally agree. As an early childhood professional I offer my deepest sympathy to the families of those who were lost that day, and my deepest respect and gratitude to those who gave their lives protecting the children. There has been so much emphasis on the tragedy in the media, but not much of it has been focused on those that protected children, what they did to keep them safe, etc. I offer my honor, respect and gratitude to those who were killed trying to protect the children and also to those other teachers who may not have been harmed but did what they had to do to keep the children in their care safe. And I agree that it’s time for the authorities and those that make the rules to start listening to the teachers, the aides, the people that are in the classrooms on a daily basis. Let us show you, what we need to give these children the best care and education. Thier parents trust us to do just that, now we need those in charge of the rules, regulaltions and dollars to trust us to do it too.
It was a beautiful service. Our prayers and sympathy to the families who lost their loves one. Thanks for the support expressed for all our teachers.