New York City teachers, parents and students are grappling with fear and uncertainty in the wake of yet another deadly school shooting.
Children made their way to class at the East Village Community School in Lower Manhattan Wednesday, the morning after an 18-year-old gunman shot and killed at least 19 children and two adults in Uvalde, Texas — the second deadliest school shooting in U.S. history, after only the Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012.
Parents discussed the Texas attack with one another, while teachers deliberated over how to broach the subject with their students.
“They're defenseless, they had no chance,” said Sakinah Long, who was talking about the shooting with another mom, Melissa Lopez, once their two sons had scurried off into the playground outside the school.
Lopez said the shooting made her feel hopeless, but she didn’t want to put that on her son.
“We gotta let them live,” she said. “They can't live in fear.”
In the hours since the attack, New York Democrats have excoriated Republican lawmakers over a decade of inaction on gun control legislation like an assault rifle ban, or universal background checks. During the years since Newtown, school shootings have only become more common.
Meanwhile mothers, fathers and teachers were left grappling with how to discuss the latest shooting with their kids. Anabel Rivera said she’d been talking to her 4-year-old daughter about situational awareness.
“Listen to what the teacher is saying at the moment and follow that,” she said she’d told her. “Take a deep breath and know that safety's first and that mommy will make it at some point, if anything happens.”
How do you comfort your students and try to let them know that things are going to be okay without ever really knowing if things are going to be okay?
Suzette Aviles, 43, who has a six- and a 15-year-old, said her teenager was anxious heading to school Wednesday while her 6-year-old was curious about what had happened. She’d spent the evening and morning talking to them and trying to make them feel safe. But when she had a moment to herself, she broke down and cried.
“It's like Sandy Hook all over again,” she said. “I just have to put faith in the teachers in the school. I think they're doing absolutely everything that they could to protect our kids.”
The news weighed on teachers, too. One burst into tears, saying only, “It’s really hard,” before darting into the school building.
Davon Clarke, a first and second grade teacher at the Children’s Workshop School in the East Village said he was struggling to come up with a credible message.
“How do you come in the day after something like that has happened? And how do you comfort your students and try to let them know that things are going to be okay without ever really knowing if things are going to be okay?” he said. “My goal for today is just to be there for my students. Let them know that I care about them deeply and I will do my best to make sure that they're safe.”