“I thought we were all going to die,” she said through tears. “I told the kids I love them and I was so happy they were my students. I said anyone who believed in the power of the prayer, we need to pray and those who don’t believe in prayer, think happy thoughts.”
These are the words spoken by Sandy Hook Elementary School first-grade teacher Katlin Roig. The 29-year-old teacher is credited with keeping her young students safe during the tragic events in Newtown, Conn., on Dec. 14h. She shared her experiences with Diane Sawyer in an interview on “Good Morning America.”
What is as remarkable as the young woman’s resolve to preserve humanity in a moment of unbridled evil was the reaction of the children themselves, all between 6 and 7 years of age. While locked together and barricaded in a bathroom adjacent to a classroom, the children held onto hope that no harm would reach them. Most whimpered and stood still, wide-eyed with fear but never creating a condition that would have brought undue attention to them. In the interview, Roig stated she did not know if the gunman came into her classroom. If the children were unruly with panic, their fate could have been different.
She held the faces of some who were emotional and assured them, “It’s OK.”
Through screams, gunshots and sounds no child should ever hear, this amazing young woman created an island of serenity determined to ensure that if this was the last moment of their lives. “ ... I wanted ... ‘I love you’ to be the last thing they heard, not the gunfire in the hall.”
There were responses from the children, ranging from bravado of a young boy, “I know karate,” to another who simply declared, “I just want Christmas.”
What this story serves to remind us is that evil can never ultimately triumph over good because the human spirit when confronted with unspeakable horror is capable of repelling it with sheer resolve. That resolve is based on those things we need to hold dear each day: hope, love and making the center of life appreciation for those things that stir the human spirit.
Though so many did not have their Christmas this year, one child did.
I’ll start here then with this affirmation and begin the difficult journey of reconciling my heavy heart.
Joe D’Amore lives in Groveland.