That is the sad reality of what I do for a living. But, no matter how many horrible stories I have covered over the last twenty years, nothing prepared me for the tragedy that unfolded before our eyes this morning.
When we first arrived, there was the optimistic hope that none of the children had been seriously harmed. One adult possibly injured while the possible gunman was dead. We watched as police secured the school while, up the road at the nearby firehouse, frantic parents were reunited with their children. It is the best scenario you can hope for given the circumstances. Then, we heard the sad news that three people had tragically lost their lives.
The news only got worse as the unthinkable happened?kids were killed. And the numbers kept growing. We continued to watch the scene as policemen with helmets, armor and rifles went into the elementary school, a very surreal scene. We watched police dogs searching and more armed policemen in the nearby woods. As I watched this, my first thought turned to my kids?as most of us with children naturally did. I was then flooded with thoughts of my time as a substitute teacher.
A few years ago I had the chance to be a substitute in my kid's schools. Teaching was something I had always been interested in and I finally had a chance to give it a try. There is nothing more rewarding than seeing the smiling faces of young people willing to learn. Or the expressions of 5 year old kids seeing a 6' 2" guy walk in as a teaching aide. Or, as many subs experience, being the butt of a pre-teens harmless joke.
Shannon will be the first to tell you how excited I was when I came home each day from school. These are the thoughts that were going through my head when the numbers of dead kept rising. All I kept thinking of was the looks on those Kindergarten kids when I walked into their class. Thinking of sitting in their little chairs and helping them learn their ABC's and the look of excitement in their faces when they finished a construction paper project. So much innocence in their young faces. So much of that innocence lost in one community this morning.
I am not sure how the families in Newtown will move on from this unthinkable tragedy. Sons and daughters, brothers and sisters were lost. Best friends, gone forever. Unfortunately the story will get worse as names and faces are given to the innocents. As we hear the personal stories of heartbreak. Newtown is a town much like the one I live in. A small, out of the way community that things like this do not happen in. My chopper is not supposed to spend the entire day showing it to the world. The very reason I tell people that you do not want to see me over your town. Much like the rest of you, I gave my two kids an extra big hug this evening, trying to keep them innocent for at least one more night.
You can follow Dan Rice on Twitter @chopperdanrice.
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