AFT Remembers the Newtown Tragedy

The pain and tragedy of what happened last year on Dec. 14 at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., will never be forgotten. “But in that tragedy,” AFT President Randi Weingarten says, “we saw angels—educators who dedicated their lives to helping our children reach for the stars—give their lives in the service of our children.” The AFT represents the educators and school staff in Newtown.

“Our instinct as educators and school staff is to love and protect our children,” she says. “We saw that on last Dec. 14. We know these stories by heart: The teacher who sheltered her students in a closet with only her body and a thin door between them and the shooter. The teacher who led her kids into a bathroom where many were able to escape the danger. The custodian who risked his life trying to keep ahead of the gunman, rushing through the halls to make sure all the classroom doors were locked. The teachers who tried to hide their children any place they could until the police came.

“It’s what I witnessed when I met with educators following the massacre—in this incredible moment of grief, these educators were worried first about how they would be able to create a sense of normalcy and support for their students. And it’s what I saw when I visited every Newtown school when they reopened, where the priority of teachers was to ensure their classrooms were safe, nurturing environments so their children could get back to learning. It was their collective strength and love, matched with the support of parents and the community, that pieced together shattered hearts, healed souls and helped overcome the horror of that day.

“Today we remember the 26 children and educators we lost, and we must recommit ourselves to ensure that every school is a safe sanctuary for our children. Today we honor Newtown and choose love.”