What could have been one of our worst days was miraculously transformed into one of our best days. A day that could have borne witness to yet another senseless school rampage turned into an inspiring day that spotlighted the heroics of our school personnel, the calmness and resilience of our schoolchildren, the patience of our parents, the courage and tenacity of our police officers, and the effectiveness of our press.
Among the many lessons I have learned, the most important one is to be thankful. Thankful that our students, administrators, faculty and staff were not injured. Thankful that a wonderful lady named Antoinette Tuff took the initiative to courageously talk a deranged gunman literally to the ground. She not only saved her own life, but the lives of countless others, and quite possibly the life of a troubled young man.
And the heroics didn’t stop there.
There were so many people involved — the staff, law enforcement and media — who went over and above the call of duty last Tuesday. Scores rushed to the reunification area to hug and console distressed parents, teachers and students. Regional Superintendent Rachel Zeigler literally took command at the Wal-Mart parking lot, providing instruction and counseling over a megaphone to help calm anxious parents waiting to embrace their babies. DeKalb County School District employees rose to the occasion, and I am thankful for all of them.
I’m thankful for the federal, state and local law enforcement and safety personnel who came to enforce and avert a catastrophe, prevent bloodshed and ferret out potential dangers. They assured the safe passage of our schoolchildren into the waiting arms of their parents. Our law enforcement not only did a tremendous job that day, but also ensured our school buildings would be safe following the events of Aug. 20.
And finally, I am thankful for the media, TV, radio and print news outlets that did a yeoman’s job of staying on the air and Internet for four or five hours informing our parents and the nation of every detail as it unfolded. They deserve to be recognized and applauded for their tireless work.
Could we have done things differently? Can we make our buildings more secure?
We have an obligation to every parent and student to make our schools as safe as possible. We will pore over every detail for clues as to how we can make our buildings even more secure. No parent should have to worry about their child’s safety while they are in school.
We are all haunted by the tragic stories of Sandy Hook and Newtown. They are a sad reminder of the illnesses that afflict some in our society. We must make every effort to protect our schoolchildren and create safe havens for learning. The DeKalb County School District will learn from this experience and apply all that we have learned to ensure greater safety for our students and employees.
I am most thankful that we were blessed to have heroes and heroines in our midst who rallied to avert disaster. I am thankful that Aug. 20, 2013 will be remembered as one of our best days ever, a day when good overwhelmed evil.
Michael Thurmond is interim school superintendent in DeKalb County.