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Teachers in Springfield remember the Sandy Hook tragedy 10 years later

Paul Tuthill
Teachers from the Rebecca Johnson Elementary school in Springfield, MA gather on the Memorial Bridge to toss flowers into the Connecticut river as they mark the 10th anniversary of the Sandy Hook school shooting.

The school shooting hit close to home both geographically and emotionally

On this 10th anniversary of the Sandy Hook school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, the 26 lives lost that day were remembered this morning in Springfield, Massachusetts.

Bundled up against the bitter cold, a group of teachers from Springfield’s Rebecca Johnson Elementary School gathered on an icy sidewalk on the Memorial Bridge over the Connecticut River Wednesday morning shortly after sunrise.

“We stand here together, a family of teachers thinking of our fellow teacher and our own students.” said Roni Gold, the teacher who organized the gathering. “We stand together knowing that by remembering our past we will cherish our future.”

After a moment of silence, they tossed roses into the river that flows south toward Newtown – red roses for each of the 20 children killed, white roses for the six adults slain, and a yellow rose for the victims of the 189 school shootings that have happened in the ten years since Sandy Hook.

The school shooting 10 years ago profoundly affected many teachers in Springfield, said Sharon O’Connor, who is both a teacher and a parent. She said after the Sandy Hook tragedy she started bringing her cellphone to the classroom, something she’d not done before.

“It hit home, geographically and emotionally,” O’Connor said.

The teachers from Rebecca Johnson held their first Sandy Hook memorial on the one-year anniversary of the shootings. Gold continues to organize the observance.

“I was a 5th grade classroom teacher here in Springfield when this tragedy occurred and all teachers were tormented and saddened by it,” he said.

Rather than do the commemoration at the school, he chose the Memorial Bridge.

“Using water, using the river and how the Connecticut River connects us to Sandy Hook, and the symbol of the bridge would show our connection with the teachers and students in Connecticut,” explained Gold.

The specter of school shootings is a constant for teachers and students who are required to go through lockdown drills. Linda Lindwall, an English teacher at Rebecca Johnson said its “not fair” to the children.

“They feel the fear,” she said. “They ask a lot of questions about what’s going on. It is sad that it is part of their life.”

School buildings in Springfield have been “hardened” against shooting attacks, according to the administration. Millions of dollars have been spent to install new doors and locks and surveillance cameras both inside and outside the buildings.

After the school shooting earlier this year in Uvalde, Texas, Mayor Domenic Sarno said he directed the Superintendent of Schools and the Springfield Police Superintendent to review the schools’ security procedures.

Paul Tuthill is WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief. He’s been covering news, everything from politics and government corruption to natural disasters and the arts, in western Massachusetts since 2007. Before joining WAMC, Paul was a reporter and anchor at WRKO in Boston. He was news director for more than a decade at WTAG in Worcester. Paul has won more than two dozen Associated Press Broadcast Awards. He won an Edward R. Murrow award for reporting on veterans’ healthcare for WAMC in 2011. Born and raised in western New York, Paul did his first radio reporting while he was a student at the University of Rochester.