While most schools have already started and others will start after Labor Day, a letter was written to teachers in Sandy Hook. It wasn’t just any letter. It was a letter written by the mother of one of the young victims. It was a letter that needs to be read by everyone.

Nebla Marquez-Greenhad is the mother of two children that attended Sandy Hook Elementary; they were both present the day of the shooting, but tragically her daughter Ana Grace was killed in the massacre. Her letter, which was posted on the Education Week website, is so powerful. It goes out to all teachers but anyone that works with children, whether they’re teachers, paraprofessionals, volunteers, coaches, et all as well as the gun right zealots need to read this.

Here is the entire letter, courtesy of the Education Week website.

“As another school year begins and old routines settle back into place, I wanted to share my story in honor of the teachers everywhere who care for our children.  

I lost my 6-year-old daughter Ana Grace on December 14, 2012, in the rampage at Sandy Hook Elementary School. My son, who was in the building and heard the shooting, survived.  

While waiting in the firehouse that day to hear the official news that our daughter was dead, my husband and I made promises to ourselves, to each other and to our son. We promised to face the future with courage, faith and love.

As teachers and school employees begin this new year, my wish for you is that same courage, faith and love.

It takes guts to be a teacher. Six brave women gave their lives trying to protect their students at Sandy Hook. Other teachers were forced to run from the building, stepping over the bodies of their friends and colleagues and they came right back to work.

When I asked my son’s teacher why she returned, she responded, “Because they are my kids. And my students need me now more than ever.” She sent daily updates on my son’s progress, from his behavior to what he’d eaten for lunch. And four months later, when my son finally smiled one day after school, I asked him about it. His response? “Mom. My teacher is so funny. I had an epic day.”

While I pray you will never find yourself in the position of the teachers at Sandy Hook, your courage will support students like my son, who have lived through traumas no child should have to.

Your courage will support students who are left out and overlooked, like the isolated young man who killed my daughter. At some point he was a young, impressionable student, often sitting all alone at school. You will have kids facing long odds for whom your smile, your encouraging word, and your willingness to go the extra mile will provide the comfort and security they need to try again tomorrow.  

When you Google “hero,” there should be a picture of a principal, a school lunch worker, a custodian, a reading specialist, a teacher or a bus monitor. Real heroes don’t wear capes. They work in America’s schools.  

Being courageous requires faith. It took faith to go back to work at Sandy Hook after the shooting. Nobody had the answers or knew what would come tomorrow but they just kept going. Every opportunity you have to create welcoming environments in our schools where parents and students feel connected counts.
 
Have faith that your hard work is having a profound impact on your students. Of the 15,000 personal letters I received after the shooting, only one stays at my bedside. It’s from my high school English teacher, Robert Buckley.  

But you can’t be courageous or step out on faith without a deep love for what you do.  

Parents are sending their precious children to you this fall. Some will come fully prepared, and others not. They will come fed and with empty bellies. They will come from intact homes and fractured ones. Love them all.  

When my son returned to school in January, I thought I was going to lose my mind. Imagine the difficulty in sending your surviving child into a classroom when you lost your baby in a school shooting. We sent him because we didn’t want him to be afraid.

We sent him because we wanted him to understand that while our lives would never be the same, our lives still needed to move forward. 

According to the 2011-12 National Survey of Children’s Health, nearly half of America’s children will have suffered at least one childhood trauma before the age of 18. They need your love.  

A few weeks before the shooting, Ana Grace and I shared a special morning. Lunches were packed and clothes were picked out the night before, so we had extra time to snuggle. And while I lay in bed with my beautiful caramel princess, she sensed that I was distracted and asked, “What’s the matter, Mom?” I remember saying to her, “Nothing, baby. It’s just work.” She looked at me for a very long time with a thoughtful stare, then she told me, “Don’t let them suck your fun circuits dry, Mom.”  

As you begin this school year, remember Ana Grace. Walk with courage, with faith, and with love. And don’t let them suck your fun circuits dry.”  

This school year, pray for the teachers, the children and the parents. Keep everyone in your thoughts and may God protect them. Life and love are precious gifts; never take them for granted. 

6-year old Ana Grace will never get to read that letter, play with her classmates on the playground or be in a Christmas pagent. Her short life on this Earth came to a tragic end the week before Christmas when a gunman with nothing on his agenda but anger and hate came to her school and shot 26 people, of which 20 were her classmates and six teachers. There needs to be a civil and serious dialouge about guns and school violence. 20 kids will never know the experience of meeting new teachers and classmates, they’ll never get to trade lunches in the lunchrooms, go to recess or fingerpaint. A madman that pulled the trigger will never face justice because he chose to be a coward and take himself out of the picture.

While there are some of us that are saying that guns are bad, it’s not the gun that is the problem. It’s the person that pulls the trigger that is the problem. We need to work together to strenghten the laws that are on the books, not weaken them. The right to own a gun is not the issue. The issue is that there are those that do not deserve to have a weapon, due to a criminal record, mental instablity or a dishonest gun salesman that put money over lives and doesn’t do the background checks.

26 lives lost. Gone. Never to walk this Earth again. The best thing we as a community can do is to make sure our children are safe and if it means changing a law that benefits the living while making sure that law-abiding gun owners have their rights protected, then so be it. It’s not about taking away guns. It’s about keeping them out of the hands of those that don’t deserve or need them.

As children walk into their schools, whether they are public, private or parochial this Fall, let’s remember those that will not walk into a school because of gun violence, including those in Sandy Hook and hope they walk out of them better than we dropped them off in the morning, fed, educated, loved.

And safe.

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