Local Reaction to Tragedy at Newtown, CT

Although it was 150 miles away, the senseless killing of 20 first graders and six school staffers last Friday at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. hit home as if it had happened right here in East Boston.

On Friday we all became resident of Newtown.

As the events unfolded, East Boston Central Catholic paused their annual Christmas Pageant so Fr. Wayne Belschner could offer a prayer for the children, their teachers and families of the Sandy Hook Elementary School. Fr. Belschner commented that it could have happened at any school here in Eastie or across the nation and dedicated the school’s Christmas performance to the children and families of Newtown.

Sunday, during his weekly homily Father Belschner called on parishioners to ‘hug your children and tell them that your love them, even if it has been a while. Hug them and tell them that you love them if they are 5, 25, 45, 75 years old – it will be a good thing.’

As the magnitude of Friday’s events became more clear, parents across the neighborhood held their loved ones a little closer, told them that they loved them often and realized that no one in this world ever knows when that last embrace, kiss or conversation with a friend or family member will occur.

District 7 Captain Kelley McCormick toured schools Monday and committed to principals across the neighborhood that police are planning to be visible in and around Eastie schools.

Many schools in Eastie sent home letters reaffirming school crisis management procedures with families.

School Superintendent Carol Johnson sent home information to Eastie parents on how to talk with their children about the tragedy.

“When I was a teacher and later a principal, it was not always easy to see when a student was struggling with an emotion that had not yet reached the surface,” said Johnson. “Quite often I found myself in search of the right words to comfort a child who came to me with a difficult question or concern when there was no easy answer.”

Johnson asked parents to reassure students that schools are safe places and that BPS and many other schools have strong protocols in place to ensure student safety.

“Our school teams will review and reinforce these protocols in the coming days,” she said.

On Monday, Mayor Thomas Menino, a member of the Coalition of Mayors Against Guns, used the national tragedy to reaffirm his position that military-style assault weapons and guns have no business being in the hands or ordinary citizens.

“I have seen too many lives ended and forever altered, and we should not have to endure one more senseless tragedy before we have a national policy on guns that takes away the loopholes in the laws and removes automatic weapons from our neighborhoods,” said Menino.

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