(President Obama’s statement about the Connecticut massacre, added here 2 pm)
12:45 PM: We are working on various West Seattle stories for today, as always, but are having a tough time keeping our mind off the beyond-horrifying massacre at a school in Newtown, Connecticut. So before proceeding with today’s local news, a few notes:
*Federal leaders have called for flags to fly at half staff through December 18th.
*Governor Gregoire has issued a statement:
“Our hearts and unending prayers are with the community of Newtown and the people of Connecticut. This heartless act of violence is incomprehensible. All Washingtonians stand with me in expressing our profound sorrow and grief.”
*Via Facebook, King County Executive Dow Constantine has said this:
Columbine, Blacksburg, Newtown. It sounds like a litany of Civil War battlefields. But all the killing — the periodic massacres and the thousands of individual shootings between — the killing is about nothing: not slavery, or states’ rights, or nationhood. The killing is about nothing but mentally unstable people and our continued unwillingness to enact and enforce reasonable gun safety laws.
*Our friends at KING 5 have posted some links potentially helpful to families who find themselves needing to discuss it with their children. Here’s one – “Talking to Children About Violence.”
If we find out about anything locally related as the day goes on – prayer vigil, etc. – we will add it here.
ADDED 1:32 PM: St. James Cathedral downtown plans a community prayer service at 6:30 tonight. Also, Seattle Police say that though there are NO threats against local schools, they are stepping up patrols today anyway – per SPD Blotter.
ADDED 2:02 PM: Seattle Public Schools has shared with the media this letter from Superintendent José Banda:
We were deeply saddened to learn of the shooting that occurred this morning at an elementary school in Connecticut. In the aftermath of such tragic events, we want to share with you how we are working to make sure that our students’ needs are fully addressed.
We are closely monitoring the situation and have asked our principals to be extra vigilant in their schools today. We have not heard of any threats in Seattle, and our Security department reports normal operations in schools throughout the District.
According to state law, schools must conduct at least one safety-related drill each month that school is in session. Every school has a safety plan that outlines procedures for prevention, mitigation, response and recovery in the event of a crisis. Please know that we take safety in our buildings very seriously; the well-being of our students is our top concern.
It is a struggle for adults and children alike to try to comprehend why and how such a senseless and shocking incident could occur. Excessive and repeated media viewing can create increased anxiety and therefore limiting ongoing exposure is recommended. We are coordinating with schools and school guidance counselors to provide emotional support for students next week. Additionally, talking about the incident can be a healthy way for families to process their feelings and reactions to an event of this nature.
How to help children cope:
• Listen to and accept children’s feelings.
• Give honest, simple, brief answers to their questions.
• Make sure they understand your answers and the meaning you intend.
• Use words or phrases that won’t confuse a child or make the world more frightening.
• Create opportunities for children to talk with each other about what happened and how they are feeling.
• Give your child an honest explanation. If you are feeling so upset you don’t want to talk about what happened, you may want to take “time out” and ask a trusted family friend to help.
• If children keep asking the same question over and over again it is because they are trying to understand; trying to make sense out of the disruption and confusion in their world. Younger children will not understand that death is permanent, so their repeated inquiries are because they expect everything to return to normal.
• If the child feels guilty, ask him or her to explain what happened. Listen carefully to whether he or she attaches a sense of responsibility to some part of the description. Explain the facts of the situation and emphasize that no one, least of all the child, could have prevented it.
• Let the school help. The child’s teacher can be sensitive to changes in the child’s behavior and will be able to respond in a helpful way.
• Even if you feel the world is an unsafe place, you can reassure your child by saying, “The event is over. Now we’ll do everything possible to stay safe, and together we can help get things back to normal.”
• Notice when children have questions and want to talk.
• Be especially loving and supportive; children need you even more at this time.
Today is a tragic day. Our thoughts and hearts go out to the students, staff and families at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
2:47 PM: A reader also have forwarded us a letter sent home by Hope Lutheran School‘s principal to her school’s families:
Hope School Families,
We are so sad to hear of the news today from the school in Connecticut. The news has already come up with our middle school students this morning, and we are praying for the families affected by this tragedy. We have asked our older students to keep the news to themselves so we can allow you as parents/guardians to decide how much to share or not share with our younger students, and so that you can help them process this sad news.
Our students are safe and sound, and so we just wanted to give you that reassurance as well.
Blessings to you today,
Mrs. Okabayashi, on behalf of the Hope staff
Psalms 46:1 God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble
Also, from the governor’s office:
Governor Chris Gregoire has directed that flags at all Washington State agency facilities be lowered to half staff as per President Obama’s proclamation as a mark of respect for the victims of today’s tragic events in Newtown, Connecticut.
Flags should remain at half-staff until sunset/close of business on Tuesday, December 18.
Other government entities, citizens and businesses are encouraged to join this recognition.
5:30 PM: Mayor McGinn has issued a statement too – read it here.
ADDED EARLY SATURDAY: Here’s an agency in Newtown that’s accepting donations on behalf of those affected by the massacre. (Hat tip to West Seattle Fabric Company, which is donating part of its proceeds to the agency.)
Also: A fund set up by the local United Way (in Connecticut) – info here.