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I sit in my tranquil living room, doing what so many others are doing at this moment, trying to come to terms with the horrific tragedy in Connecticut that rocked the core, once again, of the citizens of our global community.

The word “why” is the predecessor of most of my thoughts. Why did he do it? Why did she buy the professional-grade guns? Why wasn’t something done to intervene before tragedy struck? I ask questions and know that some answers may come while others may not, and feel the helplessness of this understanding.

I was in class teaching my French students at Sweet Home Middle School when the announcement came over the PA system. We were in lockout. We were safe inside our building and a teacher email would address details. My immediate thoughts were that a bank had been held up and that, perhaps, the perpetrator was on the loose. I made sure my second-floor window was secure.

It wasn’t until after class ended and students had safely traveled to their next class that I learned the truth. Stunned, I headed to a colleague’s room where I found her in tears. Having just ended a phone call to her own kindergartner’s school to check on its added safety measures, she turned to me for a much-needed hug. As both teachers and parents, we stood mortified at the thought of what the parents of these children were experiencing at that moment. We talked briefly, spent other moments in silence, and went on to finish our day with our children.

In times like this, we need and look for strength and leadership to guide and protect us. I watched the film clips of the teachers who valiantly protected young lives. I heard of the young teacher who turned frightened faces toward her and asked to see smiles, reassuring students that everything would be all right. I read of the aide who brought out crayons and paper while she and those in her care awaited safety. I watched as a man spoke of his cousin’s dream to be a teacher and how she heroically lost her life saving the lives of her students. I think of the principal who lived a daily mission of keeping her school community safe and lost her life in the chaos. Each courageous. Each a true leader.

President Obama addressed the nation within hours of the unspeakable tragedy. He stressed our need to stop these heinous acts by uniting in our thoughts and actions, putting political differences aside in favor of true solutions to this madness that repeatedly unfolds in our nation. I found strength in his presence and reassuring words of comfort to all.

As a sat in my living room, I received a phone call through our automated system. The message was from our superintendent, Anthony Day. He spoke of the tragedy and reassured us of measures being taken to assure our safety and address emotional concerns in the aftermath of the tragedy. He focused our attention toward an email that would guide us in addressing any student needs. I listened intently, finding strength in his steadfastness, and found renewed personal strength in my mission to be a guide and leader.

Our hearts go out to those who lost loved ones in this tragedy. To the teachers who lead and guide daily, your mission is a noble one and we commend you. Thank you for all that you do for our children. You are true heroes every day.