Nation mourns mass shooting at elementary school

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December 14th, 2012

Omaha, NE – The nation mourned Friday in the wake of a tragic mass shooting at a Newtown, Connecticut elementary school. Local police said 26 people were killed, including 20 children, after a gunman opened fire at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Heart-wrenching pictures of grief emerged from the scene, as children were led weeping from the school to be reunited with their parents.

The gunman was also among the dead. Police had not yet confirmed the shooter’s identity as of late Friday afternoon, and initial reports of the suspect’s identity were retracted.

President Barack Obama addressed the country in an emotional press conference from the White House, where he said the nation “has endured too many of these tragedies in the past few years.” Wiping back years, the President said “The majority of those who died today were children – beautiful little kids between the ages of 5 and 10 years old. They had their entire lives ahead of them — birthdays, graduations, weddings, kids of their own.”

The President said tonight he will do what all parents in America will do, and that is hug his children closely. He repeated the country has been through similar mass shootings too many times, and added, “we’re going to have to come together to take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics.”

In Nebraska, local officials responded to the tragedy in Newtown with messages of grief and support, primarily through Twitter.

Omaha Mayor Jim Suttle tweeted “My heart goes out to all those affected by today’s tragedy. Please keep the people of Newtown in your thoughts and prayers.”

Nebraska Congressman Lee Terry also responded on Twitter, saying “our thoughts and prayers go out to the victims and families of Newtown Connecticut.” 1st District Nebraska Congressman Jeff Fortenberry released a statement later Friday, calling the tragedy “beyond words.” “It’s unthinkable that a person would kill innocent little children,” Fortenberry said. “My heart is breaking for them. Even though we are far away, I know Nebraskans are grieving for these children and their parents.”

Governor Dave Heineman issued a statement that all U.S. and Nebraska flags should fly at half staff in accordance with President Obama’s declaration and in respect for the victims of the tragedy.

The child care organization, Boys Town, also released advice for parents on helping children deal with the shooting in Newtown today. In a statement, a spokesperson said “everyone – including kids – is hard-wired to recover from crisis events and has built-in coping mechanisms.”

The spokesperson added it’s normal for kids to feel upset, sad, confused or afraid in the wake of such events, and encouraged parents to let kids know it’s okay to have these feelings.

Dr. Daniel Daly, a youth care director at Boys Town, also said in the statement that parents should “monitor kids and stay vigilant as the healing process continues,” adding “signals of deeper problems” might include changes in eating or sleeping habits. Daly said if these or other red flag continue weeks after the event, parents should seek professional help.

The Boys Town National Hotline offers free advice to parents and kids 24/7. The hotline number is 1-800 448-3000.

Update:

Omaha Public Schools posted a response to today’s shooting on their website with links to resources for parents.

The statement extended “deepest condolences to the families affected by the tragedy at Sandy Hook” and reassured parents that school safety at OPS “remains our top priority.” The statement said all OPS schools have “threat assessment protocols in place” and well-trained security officers, adding “local police” audit OPS schools for vulnerabilities.

The statement linked to counseling resources for parents and said OPS will have guidance counselors available to talk to children whenever necessary.

In Lincoln, the Lincoln Journal Star reports the Superintendent of Lincoln Public Schools emailed parents today to assure them LPS is responding to the tragedy by increasing security with a heightened presence in school neighborhoods.

The paper reports teachers in Lincoln are accompanying students after school today as they wait for parents or transportation.

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