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Wicker Recognizes Heroism of Newtown’s Teachers and First Responders

In Mississippi, Outpouring of Support Has Followed Horrific Tragedy

Monday, December 24, 2012

Our thoughts and prayers are with the many students, educators, and families who have been forever impacted by the unspeakable tragedy in Newtown, Conn.  With heavy hearts, we remember the precious lives that were taken far too soon at Sandy Hook Elementary School.  Small, close-knit communities like Newtown are found in every corner of America.  This senseless massacre has caused heartbreaking grief for the entire country.

As we continue to search for answers, Americans can find some strength and solace in the courage and swift action of our first responders and teachers, some of whom lost their lives to protect the children in their care.  Police officers, paramedics, and firefighters were at the scene within minutes to help usher hundreds of children to safety.  Brave teachers and school staff managed to maintain a sense of order despite the chaos that surrounded them.  Beloved principal Dawn Hochsprung, who died trying to save her students, had made certain that safety measures and emergency procedures were in place at the elementary school.  Their selfless dedication was instrumental in preventing a greater loss of life.  

Spirit of Resilience

In the wake of this national tragedy, stories of heroism and compassion remind us of the great responsibility we have to ensure that our children always feel safe and protected in the classroom.  We may never understand what compelled this terrible act of violence, but we can remain resilient in our efforts to keep our children out of harm’s way.  

Across the country, teachers embody this resilience every day as they work to make sure that America’s classrooms are caring and nurturing havens for learning.  Local officials and school administrators routinely review emergency plans in the rare event of a crisis.  In Mississippi, many schools and districts are renewing their efforts to put in place effective security practices and precautions.  Being vigilant is a collaborative effort in which parents, schools, law enforcement agencies, and first responders all play important roles.  

The U.S. Department of Education has compiled a number of helpful resources for schools and parents in response to the Newtown tragedy, which are available online at www.ed.gov.  

Statewide Prayers

Mississippians have never shied away from offering support in times of need.  Among the many displays of kindness include the heartfelt response from students, teachers, and volunteers in Ocean Springs, who are making comfort pillows to send to students at Sandy Hook.  Others across the state have come together to hold prayer meetings and candlelight vigils.  Trained in ministering to children in disasters, a team of Southern Baptist Disaster Relief chaplains from our state has deployed to Newtown to assist local pastors as they help the community heal.   

As we gather with loved ones this Christmas, I hope the message of Christ’s eternal love and peace will provide comfort and encouragement during this difficult time.  

The Bible tells us in Isaiah 41:10:
        Fear not, for I am with you;
        Be not dismayed, for I am your God.
        I will strengthen you,
        Yes, I will help you,
        I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.

December 2012 Weekly Columns