Written by Rich Forestano Friday, 21 December 2012 00:00
The horror that struck Newtown, CT on Friday, Dec. 14 sent a wave of terror across the country after a 20-year-old man gunned down 20 elementary school students and seven teachers. Since then, local school officials have faced questions about safety and security.
Whether it was a coincidence or a sign of safe planning, the Mineola School District held safety and lockdown drills at two buildings just before shooting, District Superintendent Michael Nagler told the Mineola American on Monday, Dec. 17. Drills were held at Mineola High School and the Hampton Street School.
“We do lockdown drills in conjunction with Nassau County Police,” he said in a phone interview.
District officials assured that administration would review all its safety policies and modify them if needed. Nagler expects Thursday’s [Dec. 20] school board meeting to detail those initiatives.
“It is unimaginable to me that children are the target of such violence,” said Nagler, a father of two school-age children. “We try as parents and as educators to shield kids of the harsh realities of an adult world. It rocks you emotionally.”
Mineola guidance counselors will be visiting elementary schools throughout the week. One thing that Nagler said is key for younger kids is routine.
“Younger kids like routine,” he said. “When you deviate from them, they know something is up. We try to keep it as normal and as usual as possible as they go through their day.”
Parent Sheri Wilgosz wanted to break her routine when the news came over the radio while she was driving Friday morning. Her first reaction was to go get her 7-year-old daughter, but rethought her next move.
“I didn’t want to scare her,” she said. “She was in good hands. My initial reaction was to drive and get her out of there. Not that I thought that anything would happen to her. I talked myself down because I didn’t want to upset her.”
Mineola’s Ann Marie Egan held her breath when she first learned of the shooting. Her niece is a guidance counselor for a middle school 30 minutes from Sandy Hook.
“My niece works with some people from that neighborhood,” she said. “She said she knows people from that school and they’ll be getting together to help out. They’re all heartbroken.”
Mineola parent and nursery school teacher Maria Luca said working with children close to the age of the victims jarred her psyche when the news came in. She stated further that her hopes and prayers are with the families.
“You think of your children,” she said. “That was my first instinct. When my children were students at Jackson [Avenue School] I would never even consider this happening.”