“Look for the Helpers…”

Tuesday, December 18th, 2012

In light of last Friday’s atrocity, instead of a food/recipe post today, I thought I would share the personal experience that makes the tragic shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School hit far too close to home.

Some of you may have already seen this sweet picture of Fred “Mister” Rogers, seen above with an adorable little boy (no doubt one of his many fans).

The accompanying quote is what so many people are connecting to right now:

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.” —Fred Rogers


I know teachers all over the country heard the news from Connecticut and immediately put themselves into the shoes of those faculty members who didn’t even think twice before putting themselves in harm’s way in order to protect their students.  Those faculty members were helpers that sad morning; the police officers, rescue squad, and paramedics were helpers.  The brave principal, who knew she couldn’t call for an official Code Red, was able to turn on the PA system as a last minute, valiant effort to warn her staff and students that Evil had entered the building.  Reports have told about one teacher who, while locked in the bathroom with her students, continually comforted them and told them to wait for “the good guys”.  Victoria Soto, just 27-years-old (the same age as I am) threw herself in front of  a barrage of bullets while her students hid in a closet.   I think Mister Rogers is right; one of the best ways to deal with the pain, anxiety, and fear of the seemingly unstoppable evil that surrounds us is to “look for the helpers.”

This country is full of teachers…teachers who would not hesitate to do whatever it takes to protect their classroom full of 5-year-olds, 12-year-olds, or 18-year-olds.  Teachers are helpers everyday, even if they haven’t had the grave misfortune of experiencing something as heart-wrenching as Columbine, VA Tech, or Sandy Hook.

My sister-in-law and mother-in-law are teachers.

My brother-in-law is a teacher.

My mom is a teacher.

My husband and I are both teachers.  Not only that, but we are teachers who have experienced what it’s like to be in charge of a classroom full of teenagers while under a Code Red lock down.  Thankfully, we had a helper that day who kept an entire building full of students and staff safe from a crazed man with two guns full of ammo.

By Earl Neikirk/Bristol Herald Courier – Sullivan Co. Sheriffs Deputy Carolyn Gudger is the school resource officer at Sullivan Central High School.

This woman was our helper.

On August 30th, 2010, I was just about to begin my lesson with my 2nd period class of juniors when a panicked voice sounded over the Intercom, screaming frantically for a Code Red lock down.  There was cursing in the background (much like reports have claimed of Sandy Hook) and I knew deep down in my heart that something was very wrong.  I was immediately afraid.  As quickly as I could, I grabbed my set of keys and ran to the outside of my classroom door to lock it.  My fear was causing me to tremble, and I clumsily fumbled for the key to turn just the right way.  In the meantime, I grabbed the only student I saw in the hallway.  Bless his heart; he was on his way to the front office to leave for a doctor’s appointment.

But the front office was where the trouble was, for a man was holding a gun to our principal’s head.

Those of us in my classroom, however, did not know this at the time.  Door locked, lights off, some students pressed against the wall, some casually chatting with one another as usual…to be honest, several of my students weren’t phased by anything.  I don’t think some understood the gravity of the situation; some even chose to laugh and giggle as a way to deal with nerves.  Only a few frightened girls were crouched together behind my teacher’s podium, crying.  Then, five thundering shots rang out and echoed through the hallways.

Gunshots.  In our school.

We didn’t know who those bullets were meant for, and thanks to text-crazed teenagers, a million ridiculous rumors were already spreading about the details of the incident.

The true (and short) story is one of quick-thinking, bravery, and courage.  Officer Gudger, our School Resource Officer, was able to talk the gunman down enough to get our principal out of harm’s way, leading to a tw0-person stand off in the hallway. Lt. Steve Williams and Sam Matney were on their way, and Officer Gudger was able to appease the gunman through false promises to give him what he wanted (which was to pull a fire alarm…motives still unconfirmed).   Yet, just about the time the other two officers had arrived and set themselves up around Officer Gudger and the gunman, he was poised to shoot but was, instead, shot in response by the officers.  Those were the shots that echoed through our hallways.

The Sullivan Central High School community knows, without a doubt, that if our wonderful hero had not been there that morning, multiple lives would have been shattered.  Though she doesn’t like the term “hero”, Officer Gudger was certainly the very kind of helper to which Mister Rogers refers.

The whole story is available through these links:


http://www.timesnews.net/article.php?id=9025899 (Link Not Currently Working)

Photo by AP Photo/Bristol Herald Courier, Earl Neikirk

As we all move on with our Christmas festivities, may we not neglect to spend some serious time in prayer for a community who wasn’t as fortunate as ours.  Let us mourn for the families of those twenty sweet little children.  Let us look upon those cherub faces whose potential, whose dreams, whose lives were cut far too short.  But also, let our thoughts be with the families and friends of those six “helpers”, and countless others, who did everything in their power to spare as many lives as possible.  And, when attempting to seek solace in a society  overwhelmed by the depravity of man, look for the helpers, and let them serve as a light during dark times.

“In spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart.”  -Anne Frank

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2 comments on ““Look for the Helpers…”

  1. Wow. What a story. I’m not even sure what to say except thank God you are all alright!

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