Schools in Brooklyn and across New York City sought to ramp up emotional support for students following Tuesday's shooting on the subway in Sunset Park

Annie Tan, who teaches at a Sunset Park elementary school, said she struggled on Tuesday to explain to her young students why they were sheltering in place for hours and couldn’t go outside for recess. Earlier that morning, not far from the school, a man fired 33 shots into a crowded Manhattan-bound N train, injuring dozens and putting the city on high alert.

At first, she told her students they were staying inside because it was raining. But then the sun came out. By the end of the day, knowing they would notice transit disruptions, she explained there was a police investigation underway. 

“One of my students immediately asked if there was a shooting, which really broke my heart,” she said.  

But by Wednesday morning, Tan said educators had met and settled on a message they wanted to convey to students. They agreed to emphasize advice Fred Rogers said he got from his mother: “Look for the helpers; there will always be helpers.”

Tan said she utilized a vocabulary word, tourniquet, which she had taught her students months ago, to highlight how commuters had tied bandages around strangers to staunch their bleeding. 

The New York City Department of Education has not released the number of students who were injured or identified where they went to school. But officials did confirm that there were public school students who were wounded in the attack. They said crisis teams had been sent to some schools that were directly impacted, and added that the city has trained 75,000 school staff in trauma response since the pandemic. 

“It's our priority to provide our schools with the resources they need to meet students where they are and center their well-being through difficult times, and beyond,” DOE spokesperson Suzan Sumer said. 

Speaking to reporters outside Maimonides Medical Center Tuesday night, Gov. Kathy Hochul said some of the wounded included children. She said she had spoken with patients ages 12, 13, 16 and 18. In total, at least 30 people were injured in the attack, authorities said. 

Lisa Raymond-Tolan, who sends her son to Charles O. Dewey Middle school just a few blocks from the site of the attack, said her son had been at the 36th Street subway station 20 minutes before the shooting took place. She said she felt particularly grateful to administrators for their rapid response to parents on Tuesday. 

"Dewey handled it so well," she said. "School sent out [an] email to everyone around 9:30 a.m. and emailed regularly throughout the day. He took the bus today." 

She said the school also sent home some strategies that parents could use, including to check in with their kids’ “head, heart and conscience,” including the questions: What do you currently know, how does that make you feel, what questions do you have, and what strengths can help you get through this. 

Arin Rusch, principal at MS 447 in Boerum Hill, said her team made a spreadsheet to keep track of kids who were impacted in some way – whether they witnessed it, passed through the station, or lived nearby – in order to connect them to additional support.

Across Brooklyn, students reported feeling anxious and hypervigilant. 

Some teenagers who attend Sunset Park High School, which sits just a block away from the 36th Street station where the incident occurred, said they planned to stop taking the subway altogether.

“I don’t think I’ll be able to get on the subway ever again,” said Mario Orlando. “It’s very nerve-wracking and unsettling.”

Ying Zou, who commutes from his home in Sunset Park to Brooklyn Technical High School several miles away, rode the subway on Wednesday morning, but said he was much more watchful than usual. 

“I just sat down, like, quietly and tried to be more cautious about my surroundings,” he said. 

Zou said he thinks he was probably one train ahead of the attacker on Tuesday.

Police arrested the suspected subway shooter, identified by the NYPD as 62-year-old Frank Robert James, shortly before 2 p.m. Wednesday after a more than 24-hour manhunt.

Stephen Nessen and Sophia Chang contributed to reporting.