To the editor:
As a parent of a child who has a severe anxiety of fire drills and the practicing of lockdown procedures, I feel compelled to share my sincere gratitude to the teachers and staff at St. Joseph School of All Saints Parish.
On Friday afternoon at dismissal time, shots were fired in the neighborhood. Immediately, the school was notified by the Haverhill Police Department at which point administration contacted teachers outside and told teachers to get all children back inside. No questions were asked why. Teachers instinctively made lines on both sides of the students — a human fence as one student described it — ensuring the children’s safety back into the building.
Many students were crying and were asking what was going on and the teachers answered honestly, reassuringly and confidently, “We don’t know. But this is why we have practice drills. We are safe together right now.” My older daughter told me how scared she and her classmates were and the only thing they knew to do was to hold each others hands and pray “Hail Marys.” That alone, to me, is worth every penny I pay for our children to know the importance of depending on their faith at all times, especially in times of fear, and knowing it is OK to do so.
When retelling the events, my youngest said, “We are all God’s sheep. The bad guys are just lost. But He still loves them too you know.” One child told my daughter not to worry because Miss Simone will make sure we are safe.
Once students were given the OK to leave, with the assistance of teachers and police officers, one student at a time was released while the teachers were seen smiling, cracking jokes and comforting these students. When the students who were staying in the school for the afternoon were allowed to return to the other parts of the building, teachers stood guard at the doors blocking the view of anyone from outside — i.e. a gunman, etc., keeping in mind most still did not know the reason behind the lockdown.
As my youngest — the one with anxiety — told me all of this I was able to say to her, “Listen to everything you just told me. Those teachers love you so much they will do anything to protect you and keep you safe, including taking a bullet if it means saving your life.” Not words anyone wants to say to their children, but it is the simple truth. She said in response, “Mama, they do love me. I know!”
How can one thank another person for that? These teachers are not police officers with guns and bullet-proof vests. They are people who love what they do and love each and every one of their students. They are not there for a high-paying career. Agape — unconditional love — that is what I see.
These are only words written in an attempt to thank each and every one of the St. Joseph School teachers and staff. But no words could ever truly express how proud I am to say my children attend this school. Not only for protecting them, loving them, teaching them their faith but for proving to my child that they are safe and they are loved.