By Angie DeRosa
Editor, NHS Greyhound
NHS teachers observe the ceremony in the gymnasium. (Staff photo)
Students filed into Anthony Sorge’s eighth period English class as they had done every other day prior to Dec. 17. Desks shuffled around and conversations were ongoing. Sorge came around from his desk to the front of the room. He quickly quieted students down and told then he had something to say following the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown.
On Dec. 14 at approximately 9:35 a.m., 20-year-old Adam Lanza fatally shot 20 children and six adult staff members at Sandy Hook after killing his mother, Nancy, at her Newtown home. He then turned the gun on himself.
The massacre was the second-deadliest shooting at an educational institution in United States history, after the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre which left 33 dead.
In his classroom, Sorge paused before continuing, saying how this year he has not felt like he has been making a difference in any of the lives of his students. Sunday night would roll around and as he would get ready for school the next day, he would struggle with new ideas to help students. It was not until what happened in Newtown that he was reminded of why he became a teacher and as the Sunday following the tragedy arrived, he felt awed by his students and inspired to help them become what they dream.
Sometimes in light of a horrific event a positive outlook is uncovered, but reactions at NHS were varied.
“You know, I don’t know if there are even words,” said Naugatuck High School Principal Janice Saam when asked about how she was reacting to the event.
Many others responded the same way. Senior Klaus Jaramillo said, “It’s sad because Connecticut is always going to be known for this now.”
Superintendent Dr. John Tindall-Gibson emphasized that “everyone at NHS is responsible for each other; it’s important to say something if you see something.”
With the high school receiving approval for about an $80 billon renovation beginning in March of 2013, improving the security of the school is on the top of the list.
“This building was built poorly,” said Mrs. Saam. “Visitors can enter this building without ever having to check into the main office.”
Saam continued to tell me that by December of 2013 the main office should be in its new location, making it mandatory for visitors to enter the main office before the school. She also said that she’s considering bullet-proof glass for the reception window. More cameras will be located throughout the school and door monitors will indicate when a door in the building is left open. All doors will be remained locked and hitting a buzzer will be required to enter through the main door.
Police Capt. Todd Brouilette reassured that Naugatuck is safe and if something were to ever happen at any of the schools, the police department is trained to handle the situation quickly and sufficiently.Brouilette, Mayor Bob Mezzo, and Tindall-Gibson reviewed security measures for all schools in the borough during a meeting on Monday afternoon. More lockdown drills will be practiced regularly and police will be more of a presence at borough schools.
Students and teachers both expressed that unfortunately if someone wants to get into the building, there is little that would stop them. “Sometimes bad people do bad things to good people and there is nothing we can do about it,” said Math teacher Andrea Fitzgerald. Saam said, “Lives will be lost, but we can cut that number down.”
Alongside the issue of security, students and staff wanted to do something in remembrance of those who lost their lives in last Friday’s massacre. English teacher Caroline Messenger, as part of an initiative by University of Connecticut education students, invited her classes to make cards for Newtown school students.
On Monday, guidance provided their services for anyone who needed to talk about the tragedy and the police department sent out more officers to patrol the schools.
A vigil was also held on the borough’s Green Tuesday night, featuring an angel created by art teacher Hama Pertab. Students of Naugatuck High contributed messages placed on the angel in honor of the victims. Senior Alyssa Drone said, “It was nice seeing most of the town there supporting. We all came together for a good cause.”
Students perform at the ceremony.
On Friday a memorial service was held at the high school. All students and staff gathered in the gymnasium as 26 students read off each of the names of the victims and released soap bubbles in their honor. Freshman Lacie Dube read a poem entitled “The Field-Trip,” and juniors Megan McSweeney and Jussonjah Duby performed a rendition of “Danny Boy” that left several audience members in tears.
Saam closed the ceremony with a few last words: “Life is precious. Life is fragile … Don’t forget to cherish every moment with your family and your loved ones over the next ten days.”
Although a somber event, it ended on a positive note. Dube said, “It was great closure for students to realize what happened and how serious it was.” New Physics teacher Marc Pardee said, “It was really nice, well done and organized. It was a sweet gesture.”
Now the question that remains up in the air is what to do about the gun control, both nationally and locally. Naugatuck Mayor Bob Mezzo said, “I have no objection to someone responsibly owning a firearm. I fail to understand the need for the types of weapons used in the shootings at Newtown. …We’re going to have to take a long hard look at our gun policy as a nation.”
The New York Daily News reported that Republican congressman-turned-MSNBC-host Joe Scarborough stunned viewers on Monday with a 10-minute monologue confessing his change of heart on gun control following Newtown. “Our Bill of Rights does not guarantee gun manufacturers the absolute right to sell military-styled high-caliber semi-automatic combat assault rifles with high capacity magazines to whoever the hell they want,” he said.
In the wake of the mass murders of 20 children and six educators, Scarborough said, “I knew that day that the ideologies of my past career were no longer relevant to the future that I want – that I demand for my children. Friday changed everything. It must change everything.”
In the wake of this tragedy, the issue of gun control in America rose to a level of interest it has not hit in years. Policy change seems inevitable. A petition started on the website whitehouse.gov was record-breaking, reported ABC News. Within hours, the petition garnered 25,000 electronic signatures, the minimum required for the Obama administration to review the request.
President Obama has said he will use whatever power the office of president holds to prevent future tragedies like Sandy Hook from happening again.
As Christmas approaches, those who are feeling the need to help can lend a hand to the students and families of Newtown by making snowflakes. NBC Connecticut News posted on their website that the Connecticut PTSA is asking for paper snowflakes to help create a winter wonderland for Sandy Hook students when they arrive at their new school. Snowflakes can be sent to the Connecticut PTSA, 60 Connolly Parkway, Building 12, Suite 103, Hamden, CT 06514.