Connecticut school killings
Remember bravery of teachers
Bubbling up from this insanity and death is a kernel of grace. The school intercom was left on to bear witness. Training kicked in as teachers pulled children walking down the hall into classrooms, teachers read stories, prayed quietly and hugged their little ones close in tiny spaces. Teachers told their children over and over how much they loved them just in case they were the last words young hearts would ever hear. Bravery is not on most job descriptions. Bravery cannot be tied to a test score. Bravery wells up from the core of a person's soul like a calling.
Please remember that. As we lift these 26 beautiful souls up in prayer, we must give thanks for the overwhelming bravery demonstrated by the teachers and administrators at Sandy Hook. Teachers are "all in" for our kids. In our hearts, we all know it.
If parents and teachers both believe they would sacrifice their lives for the children they love and teach, it means we are part of a very sacred team. In the months ahead, each of us must make this an indelible part of our understanding of what it means to be a teacher. As we continue to pray for peace, understanding and ways to prevent another tragedy, please take the time to consider the teachers you know in this light.
Kathleen Oropeza, co-founder, FundEducationNow.org, Orlando
Connecticut school killings
The power of community
While reading the tragic coverage of the Newtown families beginning to lay their loved ones to rest, I felt overwhelming sadness and frustration. All too often, young people who have their whole lives ahead of them are dying needlessly. Whether they're losing their lives to a lone gunman or taking their lives due to cyberbullying, the one thing they have in common is they died much too young. And while the nation struggles with "why" this happened and "how" this could have been prevented, I believe some of the answers lie with how well our communities come together when faced with unthinkable tragedy and loss.
Strangers from hundreds of miles away attended candlelit vigils to show their support. The entire country mourns together with the victims' families. If we come together this well in trying times, I know we can — and should — do even more to support children and families at all times.
After all, these aren't simply family issues, but rather community issues that demand community-based solutions. As we head into the 2013 Florida legislative session and in this era of budget tightening, I hope our elected leaders will keep in mind the strength and power of the community in solving local children and family issues. I also hope that six months from now, the Tampa Bay Times will feature another headline that reads "The first of many" — not in reference to more child deaths or budget cuts to social services, but rather to enhancements that help communities better support children and families in good times and in bad.
David Dennis, president/CEO, Eckerd, Clearwater
Focus on mental health
Although I've been a gun-control advocate for years, to address this type of tragedy I now believe that we need to focus more attention on providing mental health services and addiction treatment for potential perpetrators, many of whom have been readily identified as needing help.
Our prisons and jails need to be places where corrections and rehabilitation are the focus, rather than punishment. We as a society need to shore up our social networks and focus on support and encouragement for, rather than ridicule and isolation of, those who are mentally and emotionally vulnerable.
We have in our society many sources of healing, hope and leadership, including faith communities, community organizations, schools, businesses, elected officials, government employees, activists, police and emergency personnel, educators, parents, grandparents, healing professionals, and countless others. We are not alone.
Mardie Chapman, St. Petersburg
Staggering death toll
The recent tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School should serve as a catalyst for a discussion of the incredible proliferation of guns in our country. With over 300 million guns in circulation, we have reached the point where there is one gun for every American. It is no wonder that the number of our combat deaths in Afghanistan over the last 10 years (3,000) is well under the 120,000 domestic gun deaths during the same time period.
The media could help illuminate the problem by listing not only combat deaths each week, but the number of domestic gun deaths under the headings: homicides, suicides and accidental shootings. At least then parents could have the information necessary to honestly discuss with their children the realities of not only war but living in America.
John Mason, Clearwater
Glorifying gun culture
How many more lives will be sacrificed at the altar of the NRA? They say, "Guns don't kill; people do," but people with guns can kill a lot people in a very short period. If the man at the elementary school had been armed with a knife, many of those children would still be alive. Coincidentally, a man in China armed with a knife did attack a group if children that very same day. Some were injured; none were killed.
This recent mass killing comes after other recent episodes, at a mall in Oregon and a theater in Colorado. Is there any other civilized country that has as many of these slaughters by firearms as we do? It is hard to believe that we have more mentally ill residents than other countries. We do, however, seem to have more people who glorify the gun culture and all the emotions that accompany it.
Faith Alford, St. Pete Beach
Reset for MacDill alliances | Dec. 16
Reset and delete
Please, let this truly be a reset. How much longer is your paper going to continue to weave the name Jill Kelley into any event happening at MacDill Air Force Base? MacDill is the home of dedicated, hard-working soldiers, sailors and airmen. MacDill is the home of heroes. We know Kelley's story; stop relating it to our real heroes.
John L. Robbins, Tampa