Photo Credit: AP Photo/The Oklahoman, Paul Hellstern
As we look for ways to speak to kids about the unspeakable, one wise and oft-shared piece of advice, courtesy of Mr. Rogers, is to look for the helpers.
"When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, 'Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.' To this day, especially in times of disaster, I remember my mother's words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers -- so many caring people in this world."
If you're looking for helpers today in the aftermath of the devastating tornado that touched down outside Oklahoma City, you need not look further than teachers. In many of the tragic events of recent years, teachers have emerged as the most inspiring examples of heroism. Over and over, we hear how their quick thinking and selflessness saved lives, or provided comfort during the worst moments of a child's life. Despite abysmal pay and an array of frustrating challenges, it's the teachers that many parents in Oklahoma, Newtown and other communities have to thank for their kids making it home safely from school.
Here, we shine a light on some of the teacher heroes, we're thinking about today.
Oklahoma tornadoes: Sixth-grade teacher Rhonda Crosswhite laid on top of students in a bathroom stall to shield them from flying debris, telling them over and over that it would be okay, according to The Today Show. Watch her emotional reunion with the boy she saved (below), which is NSFW unless you work in the type of place where you can weep openly. She in turn hailed the school administrators who stayed on the PA system as long as possible, talking teachers and student through the scary weather, until they too had to take cover.
Newtown: First grade teacher Victoria Soto, principal Dawn Hochsprung, school psychologist Mary Sherlach, special education teacher Anne Marie Murphy, substitute teacher Lauren Rousseau, and behavioral therapist Rachel D'Avino all perished in the mass shooting. Others, like first-grade teacher Kristen Roig and kindergarten teacher Janet Vollmer read stories to keep the kids quiet and calm, and helped students look away from the carnage as they exited the building, according to CNN.
Taft Union: The shootings at Taft Union High School in Taft, California are lesser-known because science teacher Ryan Heber talked the 16-year-old gunman into surrendering his weapon, a high powered shotgun. Although a few students were injured, none were killed, thanks to the quick thinking and cool head of Heber.
Chardon: In little Chardon, Ohio, football coach and study hall teacher Frank Hall prevented a school shooting, which claimed three student lives, from being even more catastrophic by chasing the shooter from the building, according to ABC News. Hall told reporters at a news conference that he was not a hero and only wished he could have done more.
Marinette: When a 15-year-old student in Marinette, Wisconsin took his teacher and 24 classmates hostage, teacher Valerie Burd stayed on the phone with police and redirected arriving students to a safe location, according to ABC News. She also engaged the gunman in small talk to keep the atmosphere calm. In the end, after the gunman turned the gun on himself, Burd and her students emerged from the standoff unharmed.
So, today, take a break from grumbling about homework or testing and instead remember how our teachers keep watch over our children every day.
Mom of two Sasha Emmons is a writer and editor. Follow her on Twitter and Google+.