Pure shock and disbelief can just about sum up the way most of the nation was feeling Friday when they learned of the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. that left two dozen students and staff dead.
No one could quite understand what coaxed the alleged gunman, Adam Lanza, to pick up two loaded guns, walk into the school and open fire on students no older than six years.
Now, two days later, law enforcement officials are still trying to piece together the motive for this shooting, which some are calling the second worst school tragedy in United States history, and the community of West Point is still grieving for the students and adults killed as well as their families whose hearts are still heavy.
West Point resident Diane Busbin was at home when she saw the news of the tragedy.
“It made me sick, just thinking about those little bitty children,” Busbin said. “It’s just a horrible thing. You can’t help to feel bad about that. To lose even an adult is sad, but when it comes to children they can’t be replaced at all.”
West Point Mayor Scott Ross expressed his thoughts on the shooting.
“Pure evil visited our nation (Friday),” Scott said. “I am heartsick over this news, and grieved for the families involved. How a person could commit such an act is unfathomable to me.”
East Side Elementary kindergarten teacher Patricia Ivy was at school Friday teaching and didn’t learn of the shooting in Connecticut until school had dismissed for the day. She, like so many other teachers and people who have a direct connection to schools, felt a deeper level of grief for the children and staff of Sandy Hook who lost their lives.
“I’m shocked,” Ivy said. “I think that’s horrible. If he had a problem with his mother he should have discussed it with his mother rather than come to school and kill all those innocent kids. That doesn’t make any sense. Any time you listen to the news you hear about somebody being mad and they kill innocent people - just doesn’t make any sense.”
Law enforcement first believed that Lanza walked to his mother’s kindergarten classroom, shot and killed his mother there and then killed most of the students in her class. But further investigation revealed that Lanza’s mother was found dead in a home that day, but Lanza did allegedly open fire on kids in his mother’s classroom.
Ivy said the nation will never truly know what the issue was between Lanza and his mother, for both of them are now passed and gone.
Even the thought of a similar mass school shooting in West Point or Clay County is hard to bear, but Ivy is confident in the security of the West Point School District.
“We have things in West Point that are set up to try to keep things like that from happening,” Ivy said. “Everybody who comes into the school is supposed to stop in the office and be identified. When someone comes to pick up a child who was not previously authorized to pick up the child the secretary calls the parent to make sure it’s OK. Everybody is concerned about the safety of the kids. The parents of my students entrust their kids to my protection, and I try to do all I can to protect them. I just pray that nothing like that every happens here. I think we do a great job in West Point with our security measures.”
Still, some feel that the government should enact laws tightening security at all schools across the nation to further deter tragic events like this from happening again.
“I think they should step up on the security,” Busbin said. “They had the doors locked and everything, they said, but since they knew (Lanza) the (law) needs to be more strict; even with the parents of the children. I know a lot of people don’t like that idea, but what else can you do when it involves children and children are very precious.”
West Point resident Johnnie Collins agreed that security should be tightened and prays that children and adults in school never again have to fall victim to a mass murderer.
“I couldn’t believe it when I first seen it, and then when they said the kids’ ages that was the saddest part of it - innocent kids,” Collins said. “These days you can’t ever say what could happen, but I hope it doesn’t happen here.”