helpers and heroes

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of ‘disaster,’ I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.” — Mister Rogers

This quote has been going around social media today, and it came to my mind when I read this excerpt from an interview with a first grade teacher:

The gunfire erupted during first grade teacher Kaitlin Roig’s morning meeting with her 14 students, what she called “a happy, amazing part of the day.”

That day quickly turned into a nightmare.

“Suddenly, I heard rapid fire… like an assault weapon. I knew something was wrong,” Roig, 29, told “World News” anchor Diane Sawyer.

“It was horrific,” she said. “I didn’t think we were going to live.”…

…When the shooting began, Roig said she quickly got up and closed her classroom door and ushered the children, all aged 6 and 7, into the class bathroom. She helped some climb onto the toilet so they could all fit. Roig said she then pushed a wheeled storage unit in front of the door.

“We all got in there. I locked us in,” she said. “I don’t know if [the gunman] came in the room… I just told them we have to be absolutely quiet.”

“If they started crying, I would take their face and tell them, ‘It’s going to be OK,'” Roig continued. “I wanted that to be the last thing they heard, not the gunfire in the hall.”

Roig said she just tried to stay strong for her students, but she didn’t think they would make it out of the classroom alive.

“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.

Throughout the ordeal, Roig said her students were being very good and she tried to remain positive for them.

“They asked, ‘Can we go see if anyone is out there… I just want Christmas… I don’t want to die, I just want to have Christmas,” she said.

The gunfire didn’t last very long, Roig said, but even when it stopped, she refused to take the kids out of the bathroom. When she heard knocking on the door a little while later, she said heard voices saying they were police officers, but she refused to open the door. Scared it was the gunman trying to lure them out, Roig told them to slide their badges under the bathroom door to prove their identities.

“I didn’t believe them,” she said. “I told them if they were cops, they could get the key… They did and then unlocked the bathroom.”

Like so many of us, I thought about my own first grader who is safely in his bed right now. And I thought about his wonderful teacher.

Kaitlin Roig was one of the helpers today, but she was even more than that – she’s a hero.

Thinking about all the victims today – those who passed and those who are still here – and their families and friends. Give them strength to endure their pain.

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