Heroes on the Front Lines in the Classroom–Violence in Taft & Newtown


Police at Newtown rampage

Police at Newtown rampage  WikiComns

Less than a month after a disturbed  20 year-old gunman killed 20 children and six adults in Newtown, Connecticut, authorities hailed California science teacher Ryan Heber and campus supervisor Kim Fields as heroes for talking a 16-year-old shooter into putting down his shotgun. The school personnel  thus averted further carnage at Taft High School 30 miles southwest of Bakersfield, California where the shooter with a hit list had opened fire and critically wounded a student he said had bullied him. Three others sustained minor injuries during the morning which saw 900 students evacuated in an all-too-familiar scenario.

Just like the fire fighters on 9/11 who ran to the Twin Towers in New York City while thousands ran from them, these school personnel strike me as unequivocal heroes in an oftentimes nuanced, equivocal world. Do you agree?

The two Taft heroes differ in one important way from many first-responder heroes on 9/11 and several heroic teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown. How so?  The Taft heroes lived through their ordeal. It’s instructive to see what happened to some  of the heroes at Sandy Hook.

  • Principal Dawn Hochsprung and school psychologist Mary Sherlach jumped up from a faculty meeting and ran out to confront the shooter to urge him to stop. He killed them on the spot, but   not before Ms. Hochsprung turned on the school intercom to alert others in the building according to witnesses.
  • Allegedly, Victoria Soto hid many children in a closet and some cupboards and told the shooter—when he entered her classroom–that  her students  had gone to the auditorium.   According to Wiki “Several of the children then came out of their hiding place and tried to run for safety and were shot dead. Soto put herself between her students and the shooter, who then  fatally shot her. “
  • “Anne Marie Murphy, a teacher’s aide who worked with special-needs students, shielded six-year-old Dylan Hockley with her body, trying to protect him from the bullets that killed them both.”
  • “Paraprofessional Rachel D’Avino, who had been employed at the school working with a special-needs student for a little more than a week, also died trying to protect her students.”   (Three wiki  quotes from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sandy_Hook_Elementary_School_shooting)

American heroes generally operate on the front lines overseas. We should not forget the bravery—and often ultimate sacrifice—of military personnel fighting for us. And sometimes against us. . . for heroism knows no ideology or nationality. Personnel fighting against our armed forces may display heroism as well as our fighters. Heroism—or the courage to confront danger while most of us shy from it—strikes me as a universally valued trait.

Are there other occupations besides first-responders (police, firefighters, paramedics) likely to be heroic on the job?

If someone is  just doing his job (like Captain Sullenberger who landed his passengers safe in the Hudson River), should he be considered a hero?

Who are your heroes, over and above the ones you know from history or from the ever-growing list of celebrities? Are there unsung heroes in your family or neighborhood?

Comments and guest blogs always welcome.

To learn about CLEFT HEART: Chasing Normal, click the Amazon or Barnes & Noble buttons in the margins. Or click the image of the book cover. My coming-of-age memoir has intertwining love stories, mystery, tragedy, and triumph.


  1. Thanks for the article. It is quite informative and detailed.


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