Nation of Change:
I’ll be brief here. Let’s just note that the heroic teachers who died while courageously trying to protect their kids at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT, and the others who survived but stayed to protect the kids, were all part of a school system where the employees are members of the American Federation of Teachers.
Let’s just let that sink in for a moment. Those teachers, who are routinely being accused by our politicians of being drones and selfish, incompetent money grubbers worried more about their pensions than about teaching our children (though most, even after 10 years, earn less than $55,000 a year for doing a very difficult job that involves at least 12-14 hours a day of work and prep time counting meetings with parents), stood their ground when confronted with a psychotic assailant armed with semi-automatic pistols and an automatic rifle, and protected their kids. The principal too, a veteran teacher herself, stood her ground, reportedly suicidally charging at the assailant along with the school’s psychologist in a doomed effort to tackle him and stop the carnage.
How many of us would have had to the courage to stand in front of a closet door to keep an armed madman from finding the kids hidden behind it, as one slain teacher died doing? How many of us would charge at an armed shooter, to almost certain death, in an effort top stop him from further killing? How many would bravely hide in a bathroom with a class of kids when we could have run away and saved ourselves?
And this: How many of the politicians in Washington and in state capitals and how many conservative think-tank “researchers” who attack teachers as leeches and drones would have shown such heroism under fire?
My guess is damned few -- if any. Yet it appears from the news reports that not one teacher in that unionized school fled the scene and abandoned the children to their fate. They all stuck with their kids. So did the custodian -- no doubt a unionized worker earning poverty wages -- who ran through the building warning everyone of the attacker’s presence.
The news coming out of Newtown, Connecticut on December 14, was some of the most shocking I had ever heard. Yet there was one piece of information that I was expecting to hear even before it was reported, that the teachers had placed themselves in harms way to protect their children, and that many had lost their lives.
To be honest I would have been shocked to have heard otherwise.
As many of you could not help but know, I have become almost apoplectic in my frustration at the way the Right Wing has vilified teachers and their unions, and have come to their defense over and over again.
You see I did not need a school shooting to open my eyes to the kind of sacrifice that teachers make on behalf of their students each and every day. I have witnessed it first hand.
I have seen public school teachers spend their own money to purchase school supplies for a needy child, or pay for a lunch that the little girl or boy's mother forgot to pack that day. In the public school system those people are not considered heroes, they are considered teachers, and nobody expects less from them.
In this terrible tragedy these often maligned teachers did not hesitate to act, and repeatedly placed themselves in harm's way to protect their children.
From the principal and school psychologist who lost their lives trying to stop Adam Lanza from entering the school, to Vicki Soto who used her own body to block bullets while some of her children hid in a closet and others ran past the shooter, to the brave first grade teacher who whispered to her children that she loved them so that those would be the last words they would hear if the worst came to pass ("I need you to know that I love you all very much," Ms Roig said."I thought that was going to be the last thing they were ever gonna to hear. I thought we were all gonna die."), these are the caliber of people who spend their lives in classrooms all across the country educating our children.
You mark my words, and take them to heart, no matter WHERE this shooting had taken place in this country, the stories of heroism by these often vilified professionals would have been almost identical.
Teachers are not sitting in their classrooms for a paycheck.
They are not staying hours after the last bell sounds to further their careers.
They are there because they know they are needed. They are are there for their students. They are there because they cannot imagine being anyplace else.
And if something, or someone, threatens the children that they have grown to love so dearly, they will not hesitate to put the safety of their students above their own.
Heroes? You're goddamn right they're heroes!
But they are heroes EVERY single day. It just so happened that the terrible incident at Sandy Hook gave the country the opportunity to see that for themselves.