The tragic shooting in Connecticut last week was an abomination beyond compare; an incident that has shaken this country to its core and which leaves many of us hoping that there is indeed a hell, where the sick and twisted perpetrator will burn for all eternity.
The images coming from that scene will forever be etched in our collective conscientiousness. There is a nationally circulated photo of children being led single file from the building that truly captures the terrible fear those children endured. And of course, we’ve seen and felt the anguish in the faces of the parents who have just been told their 6 year old is dead.
Beyond the carnage, however, lies a story of people killed on the job; educators who died attempting the most noblest of feats, protecting the lives of the innocents in their charge. Teachers and others who ran towards the danger rather than away. These are people whose actions must not be forgotten. These are the heroes of Sandy Hook.
The phonetic similarity of that title to Ronald Reagan’s “Pointe Du Hoc” tribute is unintended, but any comparison in symmetry is likely justified.
We have learned that early reports telling us the attacker, who killed 20 children and 6 adults in the school, was known by the staff, were false. We now know this demon shot his way into the school. We know the principal, 47 year old Dawn Hochsprung, and school psychologist, 56 year old Mary Sherlach, died while trying to tackle the gunman and protect the children. We know that first grade teacher Victoria Soto, who was just 27 years old, told the children in her charge to hide in closets and cabinets when she heard gunshots. When confronted by the gunman demanding to know where the children were, she told him they were in the gym. Her reward was a bullet to the head.
There are other stories. The librarian who gathered children and hid them out of view. Teachers stepping into hallways to pull young children to safety. These people and others faced the ultimate challenge in the form of a brave and selfless response.
I remember a famous photo taken over 40 years ago following a devastating tornado in a Midwest town. The photo showed endless destruction and debris, with no recognizable articles or structures left – except for one small yellow flower in the middle of the frame. That small, bright flower poked through the utter devastation of its surroundings, and came to symbolize life, rebirth, optimism and hope.
The actions of all the heroes of Sandy Hook comprise that little yellow flower in this story. They represent the very best of mankind, while facing the most hideous evil borne of man. These people simply did the right thing, when others may not have. They died on the job, in the line of duty – above and beyond that line. Our job is to honor and respect their sacrifices, and to assist wherever possible. People in our industry will deal with this. Risk managers and workers comp professionals will process files, claims, and paperwork on the dead, injured and traumatized. We need to treat these heroes and their families in the manner with which they sacrificed. Those in the industry to whom this task falls need to be the heroes for these people who performed their tasks so well.
We need to support and respond. We need to understand. After all, these are the heroes of Sandy Hook.