In the eleven and a half years that I have been teaching, I have had three students die during or after high school - one from a drowning, two from car accidents. It is devastating every time, but the current tragedy has hit me far worse than any other.
At the end of the school day Wednesday, our principal came over the loudspeaker to tell our students to not go to the elementary school down the road. A police perimeter had been established in the neighborhood, and the elementary school was on lockdown. It was emphasized that we were all safe.
I left school, ran to get my daughter, and headed back for a basketball game. By the time I returned, numerous news helicopters were perched above the houses next to us. I started hearing rumors of two dead bodies, but there was no specific news. I focused on the basketball game.
Toward the end of the first game, I was checking my Facebook news feed for any information about the nearby police activity. A familiar name immediately jumped out at me.
A woman had been arrested for a the double homicide of her husband and stepdaughter.
This woman was my former Words with Friends buddy. We played for years, connected by her son, a former student of mine. We chatted often, keeping updated on kids and progress. The son comes to see me every now and then, often inviting me to his wrestling competitions. I have been waiting to hear from him this year, but I have recently learned that there have been things going on aside from this of which I was unaware.
The past two days have been rough. There are four surviving children, including my former student. I worry for his mental health as he grows into adulthood. I worry about how he will cope with what has happened and with what will happen with his siblings. This is truly a good kid, and I am deeply pained for him.
I have struggled to understand why this has hit me so hard. I had a visitor yesterday who told me that in her travels to different schools in the area, she has not encountered many who care like I do. When I tell my students that I love them, I mean that I love them. When I tell them, "Once a Foti kid, always a Foti kid," I mean it. When I tell them I will always be here, I mean that I will always be here.
I am tormented by many negative thoughts right now (if I expressed them, I might get fired), and I know that it is nothing compared to what this family is going through.
What we do is never easy. We deal with so much, but how much do we really know about every single one of our kids at the end of the day?
I have received the reminder: Be patient. Be kind. Show love and tolerance.
They need us.