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For most us, February 14th marks Valentine’s Day to celebrate with loved ones, but for many in Parkland, Florida, it is the day that marks the tragic loss of 17 innocent lives at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Anniversaries of trauma are difficult days. They evoke intense emotion and bring back traumatic memories from the tragedy.

It is sometimes anticipation of the anniversary that is worse than the actual day. This is not meant to say that the anniversary is an easy day, by any means. However, anticipation of the anniversary builds over time, so it lasts longer than the actual anniversary day.

Anticipation of the anniversary holds a lot of unknown. How will the day go? Will I be able to get out of bed? Will I be able to keep it together?

The anniversary and the time leading up to the anniversary is a time to pause and process your emotions. Recovery from trauma is a process. It takes time to move through the stages the grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Not everyone will experience all stages, and the order you go through them can vary. Recovery usually requires painful emotions be thoroughly processed. Journeys after trauma and loss will be different for everyone.

February 14, 2019 marks one year since 14 innocent students and 3 innocent teachers lost their lives to gun violence. It marks one year of nightmares and flashbacks for the surviving students, teachers, the MSD families, and the larger Parkland community.  It marks one year since a tragic Valentine’s day, where many started the school day like any other, left forever changed by mass violence.

To those impacted by the shooting, you may feel a rush of overwhelming feelings as you reflect on the past year and look ahead to next.Tragic flashbacks running through your head and you can’t seem to get away from your emotions. Outside pressure for what you will do or how you will mark the day may be overwhelming.

Pause. Breathe, and breathe again. These feelings are normal. If you wait a little longer and focus on your breathing, the uncomfortable emotions will eventually pass. When the sun rises on February 15, 2019, the first anniversary of the worst day of your life will pass too. It may feel like a weight has been lifted from your chest.

As you continue your recovery journeys, I send my thoughts, prayers and a few words of advice from a fellow survivor: Don’t compare your experiences. Make self-care a priority. Be kind to yourself.  Be patient with yourself. And remember, breathe.


Author: Lisa Hamp, Virginia Tech Survivor

OS5A2515June is already drawing to a close.  Most of us are still wondering, “How did the school year go by so quickly?”

Maybe we’re just getting older.  In our defense, I hear the kids saying it too.

It’s the sign of a great school year.

Teachers are closing up their classrooms, parents are pushing the sunscreen, and kids are switching to low power mode. It’s summer.

Yet some of us are already looking ahead to next school year.  In fact at Safe and Sound Schools, summer means getting to work with some of our favorite community members: administrators, safety directors, school officials, emergency managers, law enforcement, and school resource officers.

This June, Alissa and I met with law enforcement officers in Florida, SRO’s in Tennessee and Wyoming, and will soon head to California to meet with emergency managers and responders.

I first spoke to a room full of these folks in April of 2013 at the Massachusetts Juvenile Police Officers Association (MJPOA), in Norwood, Massachusetts.  Though the President of the organization, now a great friend, insisted that my message be brought to the group of 400+ SRO’s, I really wasn’t sure what I had to offer.

I’m a mom, a former teacher, and the mother of three beautiful girls. My youngest was killed at Sandy Hook on December 14, 2012. My second survived, hiding in a closet with her teacher and classmates, and my oldest waited in “hard lockdown” for hours for news that she would never receive: that we were all alright.

Yes, I have a story.  I can grab the heart of a room full of people with it.  But I wondered, “What do I have for trained safety professionals?”  “How can I help them do what they are trained and called to do?”

That April morning, I stepped up to the podium to address a room full of SRO’s.  I wondered if they could see me standing behind it.  I felt so small.

I opened my mouth and the words came out.  My experience, my perspective, my observations. It was what I had to offer.

It was the beginning of a relationship between school resource officers and our fledgling foundation, Safe and Sound Schools. Since that day, folks like these have taken my experience and Alissa’s, our perspective and our observations, and made schools and communities safer.

Since that spring, we have steadily reserved our summers for law enforcement, emergency managers, school safety teams, and school resource officers.  By listening and learning from them, I can develop more powerful resources to make it easier for them to be effective in schools. For example, SROs have a better understanding of how to speak to teachers, students and parents. They also feel appreciated by the community.

This year, it was our privilege to offer full day Safe and Sound School training to the SRO’s of Tennessee and Wyoming, and to share our story with the many of the finest law enforcement officers in Florida.

We’ll continue with these efforts and close the month with the emergency mangers of California.  Together, by working with our School Resource Officers, we can accomplish great things.

So yes, summer is finally here, but our work for a safer school year–for safer futures–It’s only just begun.

– Michele Gay