On Friday December 14, 2012 I was in the Police Academy teaching a group of 60 cops how to plan an active shooter drill when word came that a horrible tragedy had erupted in an elementary school in Connecticut.
The initial report was that one person had been killed, which was bad enough. A short time later the devastating news came that over two dozen people had been killed and the heart breaking reality that 20 of the victims were little children, God's most precious Angels.
The room was filled with veteran law enforcers from all over the state. When the details were announced it was greeted by pained silence. The wave of horror ran through the room and was visible on the faces of everyone there. Like most people, these cops were parents, myself included.
My first thought was to go to my kids' school, pick them up and hold them as tightly as I could. It was the sense of helplessness that was disorienting.
These incidents of school shootings have become a part of the life experience in our country. Since the Columbine High School Tragedy there have been over 40 cases of school shootings. This one in Connecticut is being tagged as the “Second” worst in history, the first being the Texas Tech massacre in 2007.
As the specifics of the Connecticut murders came in, the first thing that strikes you directly in your heart is the understanding that the victims were not simply young adult students, but little children, kindergarten babies. That’s when the truth settles in your soul.
This is the worst incident, atrocity, and horror we have had to experience. The fact that these kids are the most innocent among us is more than most people can fathom. I have seen many terrible things in my career, as most police officers do.
I have written extensively about the effect the repeated exposure to these types of horrendous crimes can have on our police personnel and the staggering statistics of police officer suicide paints that picture quite clearly.
I have tried to teach the new people coming on the job that to survive this wave of carnage they must put their jobs and lives into perspective. We cannot save the world. If our careers have any benefit to society, it is that over the course of a life time we can help and save individual people.
If we understand that we can defend ourselves from the pain we see as we go about our work. For me it has been successful. I hope it helps my brothers and sisters who strive to protect and serve our communities into the future.
The healing from this incident in Connecticut will take weeks for some, months and years for others and some will never recover. The parents, families, friends, teachers and residents of Newtown will need our prayers. They will need the help of family and friends to embrace them in their sorrow and we will all need time to reflect on this loss.
A psychologist was on TV saying that he believes our entire nation will suffer some effects of PTSD, (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). I believe he is right. Having watched these types of painful scenes played out in the past tells me we will all be effected to one degree or another, we are after all only human.
Seeing people in pain causes reactions in us, seeing children victimized shakes us to our core. In the coming weeks our kids, even the younger ones, will know at least some of the things that happened. They may have trouble sleeping, eating or functioning.
Adults too will develop these problems as the enormity of the tragedy sinks in and the day after day coverage of the funerals becomes part of our daily news and conversations. Be aware of these possibilities, reach out to anyone who is having trouble and try to get help for them.
Surviving a terrible incident begins with understanding it, putting it in a box and taking control of it. These types of crimes, these senseless, random, horrors don’t offer much possibility for understanding or control. A person capable of killing children so dispassionately might never be understood and so we will feel helpless. If you need help, talk to someone.
I will pray. I will pray for the families who lost their babies and I will pray for the officers that have to investigate that crime scene and stand as advocates for the fallen. Their lives will be changed forever by this crime and they will never be the same.
I will do my duty and continue to prepare to be ready the next time evil shows its face, as will our police officers all across the country. We will survive, in time we will heal. Today we can remember the innocents, pull our own children close, hug them tightly and appreciate the glorious gift that are those we love in hope that a loving God walks with his newest angels and comforts us all.
Let me know what you think. Email me at: Jpangaro194@yahoo.com