When CEA installed the Sandy Hook memorial created by sculptor Marilyn Parkinson Thrall in front of CEA Headquarters in Hartford last year, it was with the idea that members and their students could...
Posts tagged ‘Sandy Hook’
CEA leaders, members, and staff gathered on October 20 to dedicate a memorial to children and educators who have been victims of violence. The bronze sculpture, created by Marilyn Parkinson Thrall, memorializes the 26 young children and teachers who lost their lives on December 14, 2012, at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown.
“This monument serves as a tribute to those innocent children and their heroic teachers,” said CEA President Sheila Cohen. “It is a reminder that the radiance and beauty of their lives endures, and we hope it will be a place of comfort and reflection for students, educators, community members, and others.” Cohen called the memorial a place of serenity, solace, and peace.
The memorial—sculptures of a teacher reading to her young students—was installed outside CEA’s offices in Hartford and includes a seating area, memorial plaque, and plantings. Read more
The Connecticut Network recently hosted a live, televised town hall meeting titled, Moving from Tragedy to Action: The Power of Community. Experts and concerned state residents discussed ways for communities to come together after tragedies such as Sandy Hook.
CEA President Sheila Cohen told moderator Diane Smith that schools need to expand their focus. Cohen said that while teaching core subject matter is certainly important, “it is just as important to look at the behavioral, the social, the psychological, and the physical health and safety of our children.”
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.”
“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.”
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
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.”
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.
“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.
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
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.