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WDRC’s Brad Davis Supports CEA’s Sandy Hook Memorial Sculpture: It’s Emotional, Passionate, and a Tremendous Gift to the State

CEA Vice President Jeff Leake and Marilyn Parkinson Thrall, the artist creating the CEA Sandy Hook Memorial sculpture, were guests on the Brad Davis Talk of Connecticut Radio Show on WDRC this morning, discussing the latest on the memorial sculpture.

“It’s going to be a tremendous gift to the state, all of us, and the country,” Davis told his audience. “It’s going to be loved and cherished because it’s about children and teachers.”

Davis said he was touched and moved by photographs of the bronze sculpture that memorializes the heroism and sacrifice that occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

“It’s very emotional and passionate,” he told his listeners. He said he “just lost it,” when he first looked at the photograph of the sculpture that includes four life-size bronze figures—a teacher and three children—on a circle of stone, surrounded by a circular stone wall. Thrall says the design captures the innocence of youth and evokes a “trusting feeling.”

CEA’s Sandy Hook Memorial sculpture memorializes the heroism and sacrifice that occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

CEA’s Sandy Hook Memorial sculpture memorializes the heroism and sacrifice that occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

During the live interview at 9 a.m., Davis, whose mother was a teacher, encouraged his listeners to go to www.cea.org to see the photograph of the sculpture for themselves.  “If my reaction is any indication, it’s going to be very emotional,” he told his viewers.

Leake, who is president of the Connecticut Education Foundation, said, “We are pleased and honored to work with Marilyn and to create this lasting memorial to the teachers and children directly impacted by the tragedy, as well as teachers and children all over the state and across our country.”

Teachers in Connecticut and across the country have been very generous and supportive of the fund. Donations to CEA’s Sandy Hook Memorial and Scholarship Fund are still being accepted.

Donations can be made at www.cea.org, or checks payable to the Connecticut Education Foundation may be sent to

Connecticut Education Foundation
Sandy Hook Memorial & Scholarship Fund
Capitol Place, Suite 500
21 Oak Street
Hartford, CT  06106

Talks are under way regarding a permanent home for the memorial in Newtown or Hartford. CEA plans to unveil the sculpture before the first anniversary of the mass shooting at the school.

Click here to listen to the interview on WDRC Radio.

Governor Signs Historic Gun and School Safety Law–Honors Victims of the Newtown Massacre

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“Through our efforts today we honor those we lost,” said Governor Dannel P. Malloy, before he signed into law an historic gun and school safety bill, developed in response to the Newtown massacre that left 20 children and six educators dead.

Several Newtown parents, including Nicole Hockley, who lost her son Dylan in the Dec. 14 Sandy Hook School shooting, joined the governor, legislative leaders, members of the state’s congressional delegation, CEA, and AFT for the ceremony at the state capitol today.

Hockley said she is grateful for this sensible solution. “We want Newtown to be known not for the tragedy, but for transformation, and this law marks the beginning of that transformation,” she said.

CEA President Sheila Cohen, who was invited to today’s ceremony, said, “While we can never undo this senseless tragedy, it spurred bipartisan collaboration and courage for legislators to develop one of the toughest gun and school safety laws in the nation. We are proud of their efforts to protect our children and our teachers.”

The governor said this new law makes Connecticut’s cities and towns safer, and he hopes it will serve as an example to the rest of the nation, and to our leaders in Washington.

Biden: “We Will Be Judged as a Society if We Do Nothing”

Vice President Joe Biden today said. Photo by Jim Greenhill via Flickr.

Vice President Joe Biden today said that it’s unacceptable for politicians not to take on legislation to prevent gun violence. Photo by Jim Greenhill via Flickr.

We will never be the same as we were before the tragedy in Newtown, Governor Dannel Malloy said this morning at a conference on reducing gun violence. “We have changed,” he said. “And I believe it is now time for our laws to do the same.”

The conference, held at Western CT State University, included Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, and dozens of educators, law enforcement officials, and state and local government leaders, including CEA President Sheila Cohen.

Malloy told the audience that he has today issued a gun violence prevention proposal that includes:

• Making Background Checks Universal and Comprehensive
• Banning Large Capacity Magazines
• Strengthening the Assault Weapons Ban
• Promoting Safer Gun Storage
• Improving Enforcement of Existing Laws

“We run a risk of letting this critical moment in history pass us by,” Malloy said. Read his complete proposal here.

This morning’s conference was organized by Senators Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal and Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty. They emphasized the need for action not just here in Connecticut, but on the national level.

Blumenthal said, “Connecticut can’t go it alone; we need national action. It can’t just be rhetoric.” Esty said, “There are common sense laws that we will pass. Not just in this state, but in Washington too.”

Vice President Biden, who himself lost his young daughter and his wife to a tragic traffic accident soon after being elected to the Senate, told the families of the Sandy Hook victims that he greatly admires their courage. “We owe you a debt of courage for being willing to stay in the ring,” he said. “I didn’t have the courage to do what you’re doing.”

Biden continued, saying that it’s not too much to ask politicians to show some courage too. “People write about the political risk, but it’s unacceptable not to take this on.” The audience responded with loud applause and the Vice President added, “If you’re concerned about your political survival, you should be concerned about the survival of our children.”

“I can’t imagine how we will be judged as a society if we do nothing — what will be written of us 20 and 30 years from now if we don’t act,” Biden said.

In addition to the discussion on reducing gun violence, the conference also included a panel that addressed mental health and school safety initiatives.

Lynn McDonnell, the mother of seven-year-old Grace who died at Sandy Hook, said, “We are strengthened by the commitment of everyone here to make a change.” She continued, “We ask that our representatives look into their hearts and remember the 26 beautiful lives that we lost and pass meaningful laws to make sure that this never happens again.”

Witnessing History; Shaping the Debates of Our Time

Advisor Feb-MarchThe CEA Advisor will be arriving on your doorstep this week. Check out the issue (in print or online) to learn more about teacher evaluations, school funding, efforts to keep schools safe, how to donate to the CEA Sandy Hook Memorial and Scholarship Fund, and more.

As a preview, below is CEA President Sheila Cohen and Vice President Jeff Leake’s column in the February – March CEA Advisor.

Our Perspective – CEA President Sheila Cohen and Vice President Jeff Leake

We felt a sense of history and pure excitement to be among the hundreds of thousands of people who attended President Barack Obama’s momentous inauguration on January 21.

There were Sousa marches, the ceremonial guns, and the voices of James Taylor, Kelly Clarkson, and Beyonce. But what was extra special was seeing President Obama take the oath of office on the Martin Luther King, Jr., holiday. How appropriate that this inauguration coincided with the celebration of the birth of a great man who fought for equality through peaceful and nonviolent civil disobedience. He also exemplified the ideals of our country’s founders—a theme sounded in the president’s address.

In his speech, President Obama sounded the theme of faith in America’s future, urging “fidelity to our founding principles.” He added, “When times change, so must we.” The president called for “new responses to new challenges.” One of those challenges, of course, involves gun and school safety.

It did not surprise us that the president was on message when he said, “Our journey is not complete until all our children, from the streets of Detroit to the hills of Appalachia to the quiet lanes of Newtown, know that they are cared for, and cherished, and always safe from harm.”

In our view, the day was overshadowed by the somber mood we all feel after the horrific Newtown mass shooting. We vigorously applauded the president when he told Americans they have the power to set this country’s course, urging us to fulfill our “obligation to share the debates of our time.”

Working with teachers, state policymakers, and communities across the state, CEA is fulfilling our obligation to share in one of the critical debates of our time—gun and school safety.

New polling is basis for policy direction

We were heartened that our colleagues at the National Education Association (NEA) helped set the tone for this debate by releasing a national poll that showed educators nationwide overwhelmingly support stronger laws to prevent gun violence and keep children safe.

Wanting Connecticut-specific polling data for the Connecticut-specific state legislative debate, our state Association undertook our own poll. It was the first time Connecticut teachers were asked for their opinions about school and gun safety in a comprehensive manner that is representative of educators’ views.

Our CEA survey found that members overwhelmingly support stronger gun safety laws and updating school facilities to deal with modern dangers. In fact, almost all of our members surveyed favor extending criminal and mental health background checks for all gun purchases, and a majority support banning the sale of assault weapons and high-capacity magazine clips. It also is notable that educators in Connecticut and nationwide outright reject the notion of teachers carrying guns in the classroom.

Our findings are similar to the recommendations that Vice President Biden submitted to President Obama in January. At both the state and national levels, there appear to be clear areas of agreement. We urge legislators in Washington, D.C., and Hartford to listen to their constituents and pass strong laws that will protect and keep America’s children safe from harm.

At the State Capitol, we were front and center when the state legislature’s Bipartisan Task Force on Gun Violence Prevention and Children’s Safety started work on January 25. CEA testified before the Task Force’s School Safety Working Group, calling on the state to “do what is necessary to make sure every child in our state’s public schools has a safe and secure learning environment.”

CEA urged the task force to listen to ideas advanced by students, educators, parents, and others in our communities and ensure that localities have the resources necessary, including more school counselors, social workers, and psychologists.

We believe that the task force should ask the full legislature to create School Safety Committees in every school. Districts should be able to choose the safety measures for their schools as they see fit. But the legislature would show leadership by acting swiftly and providing models that schools could review, edit, and adopt.

Dedicated teachers offered helping hand

There was great inspiration to be found in the outpouring of love and support following the Newtown shooting. We received calls from all over the world, including Europe, Mexico, and Australia, and from nearly every education association in the country, offering condolences and support. Everyone wanted to do something to help.

Here in Connecticut, teachers did whatever they could to help their Newtown colleagues. They held vigils; offered counseling and support; held fundraisers; donated to numerous funds; provided lunch to Sandy Hook teachers; participated in the snowflake project, creating paper snowflakes for display in the windows at the new Sandy Hook Elementary School; and so much more.

In Monroe, teachers paired up with Sandy Hook Elementary School faculty to help prepare new classrooms for students at the old Chalk Hill School. At a church service in Waterbury, NEA President Dennis Van Roekel joined Connecticut teachers in paying tribute to the victims.

These acts of kindness are not surprising, since we are a caring group ready to jump in and help in a time of crisis—in our home state and around the country. To that point, some of our colleagues from the Ohio Education Association Crisis Team, whom we contacted, did not hesitate to travel to Connecticut to help. They were a great resource for Newtown at the time of the crisis.

The Ohio team is one of several NEA state affiliates with organized crisis response teams that are part of the NEA Health Information Network Safe Schools Initiative. They are dispatched to help members deal with traumatic events and emergencies. The team is expected back in Newtown in the next few months to offer support to the teachers in what, as expected, will be a long healing process.

Moving forward

No matter where we encounter a colleague, when the talk turns to Sandy Hook, the attention gets focused on how to help in a meaningful and collective way. Toward this end, the CEA Board of Directors has voted to create the CEA Sandy Hook Memorial and Scholarship Fund, within the Connecticut Education Foundation.

We’ve set a fundraising goal of $1 million to create a bronze memorial sculpture and a scholarship fund that will later be turned over to the UConn Foundation. Already there has been an outpouring of support and generosity, and we hope you will join it. You can visit www.cea.org/donatewithteachers to participate.

In the weeks ahead, your political action will also be needed to shape the debate on guns and school safety. As we mentioned at the beginning of this column, we hope you all feel our obligation to share the debates of our time. There is no greater challenge than ensuring that our schools are safe havens and that a mass fatality never again occurs in our state. There is a powerful North Star guiding our work, and we hope, yours. It is the timely paraphrase of a quote from President Obama: Our first task as a society is to keep our children safe.

With Heavy Hearts Sandy Hook Families, Supporters Call for Safer Gun Laws

Jillian Soto, sister of Sandy Hook Victoria Soto killed in the school shooting, spoke at a Valentine's Day Rally at the Capitol today in support of

Jillian Soto, sister of Sandy Hook teacher Victoria Soto who was killed in the school shooting, spoke at a Valentine’s Day Rally at the Capitol today in support of safer gun laws.

“Take a moment and think about the five people who are most important to you,” Jillian Soto told a crowd of 5,500 at the State Capitol in Hartford today. “What would you do if one of those people was taken from you — not because they were sick, but because they were murdered?”

Soto is the younger sister of Victoria Soto, a Sandy Hook first-grade teacher who died protecting her students two months ago today. She joined numerous victims of gun violence and their family members along with Connecticut political leaders at the Valentine’s Day Rally in Support of Safer, Rational Gun Laws.

Soto said that her sister has been lauded as a hero by people around the world. Although Victoria would have just said that she was doing the right thing, Soto said, “Vicki was a hero long before Sandy Hook. She didn’t need to die to prove that to me.”

CEA Vice President Jeff Leake applauded speakers at today's gun safety rally.

CEA Vice President Jeff Leake applauded speakers.

Veronique Pozner, the mother of Noah Pozner, remembered her son as an active kid who “took large hungry bites out of every day.” Noah’s twin sister Arielle survived the Sandy Hook shooting in the classroom next door, hidden by her teacher Kaitlin Roig in a bathroom. Pozner said that Arielle wishes Noah had been hiding with her, and is scared she’ll forget what Noah sounded and looked like.

“How can anyone think that the life of my son, or anyone else lost that day, is so disposable that we can do nothing?” Pozner questioned. “Let the state of Connecticut become an agent for change for gun safety.”

“No one else needs to lose a loved one,” said Soto. “I’m not asking to take any guns away from people. I’m asking for common sense changes to gun laws.”

Changing attitudes, saving lives

5,500 people showed their support for safer gun laws at the State Capitol today, according to Capitol Police.

State Senate President Pro Tempore Donald Williams joined numerous legislators on the steps of the Capitol. He told the crowd, “you are the common sense majority.” He continued, “I pledge to you: I will do all I can to move the common sense majority forward to take weapons of war away from those who would harm our children.”

State Attorney General George Jepsen said it will be hard to change the culture and social attitudes around gun violence, but it can be done. States with stronger gun laws like Connecticut and Massachusetts have far less gun violence than states like Alabama, according to Jepsen.

“We’ve changed attitudes toward second-hand smoke, drinking and driving, gender equality, and gay rights,” he said. “All because a few good people came together and forced dialog.”

Piles of snow from the recent blizzard didn't stop people of all ages coming out to show their support.

Piles of snow from the recent blizzard didn’t stop people of all ages from coming out.

Secretary of State Denise Merrill told the crowd that legislators have been receiving far more calls and emails against stronger gun laws than those for them.

“I stand with you here today not because I’m Secretary of State, but because, like many of you, I’m a parent,” she said. “Like many of you, I’m a grandparent. And, like many of you, I’ve had enough.”

Governor Dannel Malloy said that every day we delay changes to gun laws, “is one more day innocent individuals will lose their lives.”

Williams thanked State Senate Minority Leader John McKinney for being part of a bipartisan task force on gun violence. McKinney, who represents Newtown, said, “We can work together and we will work together here in Connecticut. Our nation’s representatives in Washington need to take lessons from our lead.”

Victims of gun violence want action

Other victims of gun violence and their families also spoke. Stephen Barton is a survivor of the shooting in an Aurora, Colorado, movie theater and a Southbury native. He said that Gabby Giffords, in her remarks last month before congress, urged lawmakers to have the courage to do what’s right.

We are Sandy Hook, We Choose Love!

You can remember Newtown by sharing a Valentine today at www.sandyhookpromise.org.

“It’s not courage to simply do the right thing,” said Barton. “Courage is Soto protecting her students, [Sandy Hook Principal Dawn] Hochsprung springing out of her office to confront the shooter.”

Colin Goddard, a survivor of the shootings at Virginia Tech, said “I’m not here because of what happened to me, but because I kept seeing what happened to me happen to others.”

Robert Thompson, a Bridgeport native, lost his fourteen-year-old son to gun violence last year. “In the urban cities we’re confronted by this problem every day,” he said.

Ron Pinciaro of Connecticut Against Gun Violence said, “the time for change to guns laws is now and the where is Connecticut.” He remembered the many victims of urban gun violence and said that more guns are not the answer. Pinciaro cited CEA’s poll of teachers which found that 85% of members oppose any proposals allowing teachers to carry guns in schools.

How you can remember Newtown today

Sandy Hook Promise is asking people around the country to keep Newtown in their hearts today. You can share a valentine via social media and make the Sandy Hook Promise here.

You can contribute to the Sandy Hook School Memorial Scholarship Fund here.

Obama Calls on Nation to “Protect Our Most Precious Resource”

Sandy Hook teacher Kaitlin Roig who hid her students in a bathroom during the shooting (at right) sits next to Dr. Jill Biden during the State of the Union address last night.

Sandy Hook teacher Kaitlin Roig (at right), who hid her students in a bathroom during the shooting at her school, sits next to Dr. Jill Biden during the State of the Union address last night.

President Obama addressed a range of issues in his State of the Union speech last night, from the economy and jobs to Medicare to tax reform to immigration to education, but it was the president’s remarks on Newtown that elicited the most emotional response from his audience.

The president said,

It has been two months since Newtown.  I know this is not the first time this country has debated how to reduce gun violence.  But this time is different.  Overwhelming majorities of Americans – Americans who believe in the 2nd Amendment – have come together around commonsense reform – like background checks that will make it harder for criminals to get their hands on a gun.  Senators of both parties are working together on tough new laws to prevent anyone from buying guns for resale to criminals.  Police chiefs are asking our help to get weapons of war and massive ammunition magazines off our streets, because they are tired of being outgunned.

More than 25 victims of gun violence and their families watched the speech from the House gallery. Most were the guests of House and Senate members.

Among the guests of the Connecticut Congressional delegation were Carlos Soto, the teenage brother of Victoria Soto, the Slain Sandy Hook first grade teacher; injured Sandy Hook teacher Natalie Hammond; Newtown First Selectwoman Pat Llodra; and Newtown first responders Jason Frank and Dan McAnaspie. Sandy Hook teacher Kaitlin Roig who hid her students in a bathroom and kept them quiet during the shooting, sat in First Lady Michelle Obama’s box.

Obama said, “Tonight matters little if we don’t come together to protect our most precious resource – our children.”

Focus on early-childhood and higher education

The president’s comments on education concentrated on pre-K and higher education. Obama called for colleges to keep tuition rates down and said his office will today release a new scorecard to help students and families make informed decisions about universities.

On early-childhood education Obama proposed that the federal government work with states to make high-quality preschool available to all children.

Every dollar we invest in high-quality early education can save more than seven dollars later on – by boosting graduation rates, reducing teen pregnancy, even reducing violent crime.  In states that make it a priority to educate our youngest children, like Georgia or Oklahoma, studies show students grow up more likely to read and do math at grade level, graduate high school, hold a job, and form more stable families of their own.  So let’s do what works, and make sure none of our children start the race of life already behind.  Let’s give our kids that chance.

Making education and students a priority is an economic imperative. How would universal high-quality early education help students in your classroom?

Young People Remember, Honor Sandy Hook

From bake sales to basketball tournaments, there’s been an outpouring of support for the Newtown community from across the state, nation, and world.

The Sandy Hook Memorial and Scholarship Fund established by the CEA Board of Directors continues to receive many generous donations from CEA and NEA members, as well as from many members of the public. The fund will go toward scholarships at the University of Connecticut for family members of those killed in the Newtown shooting and to create a sculpture memorializing the lives lost in the tragedy.

Students at Darien and New Canaan High Schools dedicated their annual basketball tournament to the victims of Sandy Hook. The students raised $2,100 for the Sandy Hook Memorial and Scholarship Fund.

More than 100 boys and girls from four area high schools—Staples, Greenwich, Darien, and New Canaan—competed in the 19th annual Tony LaVista Memorial Holiday Basketball Tournament, held during the last week of December.

The tournament honors Tony LaVista, an outstanding teacher, administrator, and coach in New Canaan and Darien who died unexpectedly in 1995. Each year, proceeds from the tournament are donated to charity.

“This year we couldn’t think of a more fitting way to remember our friend Tony than to donate the tournament proceeds to the Sandy Hook Memorial and Scholarship Fund in his name,” said Jay Egan, director of athletics at New Canaan High School.

“We are truly thankful for all the donations to the fund, but especially those that come from students,” says CEA President Sheila Cohen. “It’s heartwarming to see children getting involved and doing something special to help the community, state, and nation heal from this unimaginable tragedy.”

CEA has set a fundraising goal of at least $1 million for the Sandy Hook Memorial and Scholarship Fund. Donations can be made online on the CEA website. Checks payable to the Connecticut Education Foundation may also be sent to

Connecticut Education Foundation
Sandy Hook Memorial and Scholarship Fund
Capitol Place, Suite 500
21 Oak Street

Hartford, CT 06106

Remembering the victims in Newtown

This holiday season it appears impossible to find anyone who isn’t grieving for the youngsters and educators who died in the mass shooting in Newtown.

Friends who know that I work for the Connecticut Education Association have been calling and sending their condolences.

But they are doing so much more. They are reliving wonderful childhood memories of their favorite elementary school teachers. They are sending cards, flowers, donations, and sharing their acts of generosity and kindness using the hashtag #26ActsOfKindness on Twitter and the Facebook page 26 Acts of Kindness.

One friend gave me a candle and asked me to burn it for 26 consecutive days to honor those killed. Another, an orthodontist, asked her patients to sign a card that she delivered to the memorial site at Sandy Hook Elementary. One friend donated blood in memory of the victims.  And countless others have been asking for contact information and the address for the United Way, so they can make monetary donations.

Tom, a former colleague and the father of a 10-year-old boy, was hit hard by the tragedy.  He didn’t know what to do, but as a musician, he did what he does best—he wrote a song- “Love Comes to Us All.”  It made him feel a little better and he hopes others will find comfort in it too.

Bells Ring for Sandy Hook Victims

A Connecticut State Trooper rings the bell at the State Capitol Friday morning to honor Sandy Hook victims while National Guardsmen look on. Photo courtesy of Christine Stuart, www.ctnewsjunkie.com.

Sgt. John Sylvester of the Capitol Police Honor Guard rings Connecticut’s replica of the Liberty Bell at the State Capitol Friday morning to honor Sandy Hook victims. Photo courtesy of Christine Stuart, ctnewsjunkie.com.

At 9:30 this morning, the state of Connecticut and people around the country and world observed a moment of silence for Sandy Hook Elementary School victims. Bells rang in houses of worship and government buildings 26 times in honor of each of the students and educators killed in the shooting.

In Newtown bells rang at Trinity Episcopal Church as Governor Malloy joined the Newtown superintendent of schools, lawmakers, and other officials on the steps of the Town Hall.

The Sandy Hook Elementary community will resume classes in January at the empty Chalk Hill School in Monroe. Sandy Hook’s former principal Donna Page, who retired in 2010, is coming back to lead the school. Bruce Lazar, the last principal of Chalk Hill School, will assist her. Parents and students have been touring the new-to-them building this week. Read more from the Monroe Patch.

Many have written excellent tributes to the students and educators who lost their lives. The tribute below came earlier this week from WTIC sports commentator Scott Gray.

A Tribute to True Heroism

We never really had to redefine the word hero, we just needed to put it back in perspective. Now we know. Tragically. Just ask Victor Cruz.

The New York Giants wide receiver knows grown men don’t become heroes by playing kids’ games. Heroes don’t catch touchdown passes or hit home runs, heroes live everyday lives, quietly, with dignity, without fanfare. Their true heroic nature is camouflaged in the day-to-day personality of the first responder who lives next door, whom you’ve never seen at work.

True heroes embrace our most sacred trust, the lives of our children, and respect the gravity of that trust, to teach our children well and guard their innocence. True heroes are the teachers who put up with those endless drills, fire drills, lock down drills, instructing their students as they are instructed themselves, hoping they will never be called on to respond in a real situation while learning to respond at the moment most needed.

Now we know. Tragically. True heroes respond to the greatest challenges life can confront them with.

Victor Cruz knows the true meaning of heroism this morning and he knows that he does not fit that definition when he catches a touchdown pass for the Giants. Victor Cruz wore a special pair of cleats into yesterday’s game in Atlanta. On one shoe was written the name of a young, innocent victim of Friday’s tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut.

“Jack Pinto, my hero”, said the words on the shoe, Cruz having learned the day before that Jack was a big Giants fan and he was Jack’s favorite player. “R-I-P Jack Pinto” was written on the other shoe. Victor will visit Jack’s parents this week and present them with the cleats he wore in yesterday’s game. Whether they were worn in a win or a loss will never matter to anyone. We learned so much over the weekend about the importance of winning and losing.

True heroes don’t hit home runs or sink game winning three-pointers at the buzzer, true heroes go to work every day and do the job they were trained to do, even when that job means putting oneself in harm’s way.

The true hero is the principal who intentionally becomes a barrier between danger and the young lives with whom she has been trusted. The true hero is the teacher who has been trained to put a premium on the lives of the most precious generation and, when the time comes, bravely cashes in that premium. The true hero is the parent who, in the face of unspeakable grief, comforts a child who needs it more than at any other time and finds the strength to return some normalcy to that child’s life.

Victor Cruz knows what a true hero is and he knows it is not him. He, along with all the rest of us who live too much of our lives in the sports world and have cheapened the word, sometimes beyond recognition, learned over the weekend who true heroes are.

True heroism just happens when we embrace the responsibility of living our everyday lives. True heroism was redefined on Friday in Newtown, Connecticut.

Teachers Honored as Unsung Heroes: Hundreds grieve for victims of mass shooting

Teachers and community members gathered tonight in Waterbury to pay tribute to the students and educators lost in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.

Teachers and community members gathered tonight in Waterbury to pay tribute to the students and educators lost in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.

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.”

Leake, Van Roekel, Egan

From left, CEA Vice President Jeff Leake, NEA President Dennis Van Roekel, and Waterbury Teachers Association President Kevin Egan enter the basilica to pay their respects.

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.”

Twenty-six candles bearing the names of the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting lit the altar.

During the service, 26 candles bearing the names of the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting lit the altar.

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.”