Local parents react to Conn. school shooting

December 14, 2012

Law enforcement officials received a tip that a Columbine-type attack was planned for the high school.

"We were lucky enough to get some information the night before it was to happen, and our officers and detectives acted quickly," said Deputy Chief John Myrsiades.

It was back in October 2007 that Plymouth Township Police received a tip that 14-year-old Dillon Cossey was planning a "Columbine-Type" attack on the high school.

Police moved quickly to arrest Cossey and searched his home where they found several weapons, 4 home-made hand grenades, black explosive powder, a book on how to make bombs, videos of the Columbine shooting and notebooks detailing violent acts.

The tragedy was averted, but it was an eye opening reality for law enforcement and school officials in Montgomery County.

"It really hits home, you think about the possibility of what could happen. And we train, we train as officers, we train as SWAT teams to prevent these things from happening, in the event that-God help us-if it does happen.

Montgomery County authorities have developed plans and close relationships with school administrators on such issues.

They say they have blue prints of the schools, and met as recent as Thursday to talk about what more they can do to make schools safer. The tragedy in Connecticut has only reinforced their convictions.

"You always think of ways of tweaking things, and unfortunately when you hear about something like this, you always want to re-evaluate," he said.

While any loss of life is tragic enough, Deputy Chief John Myrsiades says the response in Connecticut by teachers, administrators and law enforcement probably saved many other lives.

"A lot of people were saved; a lot of people went home that day, because the school district, the police department did exactly what they were trained to do, and they made the best of a tragic situation," said Dep. Chief Myrsiades.

The tragedy has many questioning whether American has reached the point where we have to develop a "prison-like" atmosphere at our schools to keep kids safe?

"I hate to think of the schools like a prison," said Dep. Chief Myrsiades. "But certainly I think that we have to make things safer. I mean, it's a reality, we see it every day."

There have been many security measures implemented since the Columbine massacre at schools across America. But the tragedy in Connecticut reminds us that there is much more work to be done.

Residents across the region also expressed shock and sadness amid news of the deadly Newtown, Connecticut elementary school shooting.

"I was crying all day. It's awful. It's terrible. I can't way to pick up my daughter to give her a hug," said Valerie Brown.

Parents gathered for the 3:00 pm dismissal at West End Memorial School in Woodbury, New Jersey but with news of what happened in Newtown, Connecticut, it was anything but routine.

"My heart fell. I couldn't believe it, because we have people coming in and out of this school all the time. This is where my son goes and I volunteer at the school. It just hits home," said Dawn Page.

"You don't really process it honestly. My husband's reaction - he was sick to his stomach," said Debbie Gilmore.

A few blocks away people also attempted to process the news, trying to understand why someone would go into a school and commit mass murder.

"Why would he do that? I don't understand," said Tracie Lane.

"It's almost unbelievable but it's so believable. I don't understand this country with the gun situation," said Steve Glick.

"It brings tears to my eyes. We want to live in peace. This should be a peaceful time with Christmas, Hanukkah and the holiday season. I just don't understand," said Karen Corsi.

It was a similar scene in Philadelphia, as parents and grandparents picked up their children with an extra sense of urgency.

"You may get a phone call to hear that you may not see your daughter again. It's very devastating and shocking. I am concerned," said Judith Jolly.

The horror of the moment strikes fear into the hearts of parents everywhere. Vilma Diaz says she prays for her grandchildren every day they go off to school.

"We pray for their protection at night, in the morning and all day long. I sit and I'm reading and I'll take a break and pray for my grandchildren and the kids in the school," said Diaz.

Other parents say they worry about the safety of their children, but, can't let fear rule their lives.

"As a parent you raise your kid as best you can. You do what you're supposed to do and hope for the best. Some things are out of your control and when it comes to something like that you can't control people's actions unfortunately," said Tony Jordan.

Many families are grappling with what to tell their children when they learn of the horror.

"People are so evil. I can't get my head around it. Why? Why the children?" said Yvette Ragin.

Why the children, is the question so many have.

"Just leave the children be. They didn't wake up that morning and think that this was their last day on the earth," said Mabel Alvarado.

What about the parents and families of the children? Many have turned their thoughts to them.

"All those little special moments that they spend with their kids, cuddling, watching TV and movies, all their aspirations for their future is gone now. They're just left with a big hole," said Duncan White.

It's tough to imagine and that's why parents across the area are hugging their children a little tighter tonight.

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