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Schools, community members respond to shooting

'We're Sandy Hook today'

Posted: December 19, 2012 - 9:36am  |  Updated: December 19, 2012 - 9:40am
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Students and staff at Soldotna High School arrange themselves in a heart shape and pose for a photo Tuesday to show support for the victims of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., last week.  Rashah McChesney
Rashah McChesney
Students and staff at Soldotna High School arrange themselves in a heart shape and pose for a photo Tuesday to show support for the victims of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., last week.

It was about 5:40 a.m. in Soldotna on Friday when a gunman walked into Sandy Hook Elementary school in Newtown, Conn., and killed 26 people.

But information spreads fast and by midday several classes were paused so teachers could talk to students about what they had been texting, Facebooking and talking about all morning. By midday, several groups had come up with a plan to help students connect and support people affected by the shooting.

So, on Tuesday morning, several hundred students, teachers and staff wore white and gathered in a large heart shape in the Soldotna High School’s cafeteria for a photograph to be sent to a teacher in Newtown who will share it with victims of the shooting.

It was an effort several students said they hoped would lighten the hearts of people whose lives had been irrevocably shattered by the deaths.

“It’s mainly to give them hope to not be disappointed in life and in people,” said Olya Sergyeyeva, 16, a Soldotna High School senior.

Sergyeyeva was one student in a steady sea of white that streamed around in the cafeteria at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday morning as the group packed together for the picture.

She said she was happy to show her support, but concerned about the sentiment.

“I think, it’s kind of sad that something had to happen for people to be all united right away all of the sudden ... it’s just weird,” she said. “If people actually want to support each other, support each other all the time, not just because something happened.”

Like Sergyeyeva, senior Johnathon Kreider, said wearing white would not help to bring the lost lives back, but he said he felt the need to do something.

“I know that wearing something doesn’t do much but its about the thought that counts,” said Johnathon Kreider, senior. “We can’t really give much, we can’t give any kids back but we can give what we can.”

While the event did not directly affect him, Kreider said he still wanted to “give his heart out” to those affected.

He said when he thought of the possibility of his youngest sister being killed, he had a hard time trying to picture how he would react.

“I couldn’t deal with that. I couldn’t do that,” he said. “She’s just the entire spark of our family right now, just everywhere at once. I just couldn’t think about it.”

Just before the group gathered, English teacher Matt Walton had several students lined up in the commons area while others shouted instructions about how the heart should be shaped from the second story of the school.

Several of Walton’s students served as placeholders while the rest of the student body filled out the heart.

Walton said he was not surprised that so many kids were willing to participate in the memorial event.

“How can you not be affected by something like that,” he said. “It was their opportunity to say, ‘You know what? We’re Sandy Hook today. We feel you. Everybody needs a kind word, especially now,” Walton said.

Superintendent Steve Atwater blogged Friday that he was “shocked and saddened” by the days events.

“All of us at KPBSD offer our condolences to the victims and their loved ones,” he wrote.

District Spokeswoman Pegge Erkeneff said Monday she had taken several phone calls from parents Friday and after the weekend wondering what the district was doing to keep students safe.

Several people asked about lockdown drills on the district’s Facebook page.

“We work with all of our administrators and each school has ‘hit the deck’ drills, intruder drills and we work with local law enforcement,” Erkeneff said. “We’ve done that with all of our schools very deliberately and while we’re confident that we’re practicing safety we are looking at ways to improve.”

The district’s leadership meet will meet today to go over its emergency action plan, said Dave Jones, assistant superintendent.

While details of that plan are not available to the public for security reasons, Jones said he was confident the district had a good plan in place.

Each school is required to carry out two lockdown drills a year, one in the fall and one in January after the holiday break, he said.

“In our plan is that at least one of those two drills needs to include the participation of local emergency folks, police and fire,” Jones said. “They’ve been part of our emergency action plan for years.”

Both Jones and Erkeneff said parents who were worried about safety should contact their child’s school principal to find clarification on school safety policies.

Districtwide, a moment of silence was observed on Monday at 9:41 a.m., although participation at the elementary school level was done on a class by class basis.

Erkeneff said several parents had contacted the district to make sure no one told their children what had happened.

At the high school level, however, it is nearly impossible to control how quickly word of the shooting spread.

“It’s just instant,” said Soldotna High School principal Todd Syverson. “I think especially with younger parents, the news spread quickly. Parents were texting kids, kids were texting kids. It was instant.”

Several classes stopped to allow students the opportunity to talk about what they were feeling, Syverson said.

“Sometimes it’s just important for kids to have an opportunity to talk it through,” he said.

Shae VanMeter, a junior, said she read an article about the shooting in her language arts class and immediately wanted to do something for victims of the massacre.

“We came up with the idea of everybody wearing white,” she said.

She and a classmate made signs to hang around the school reminding students to wear the color Tuesday in preparation for the photo.

“It really just breaks all of our hearts to know something like that would happen,” VanMeter said. “I have a little brother that’s in elementary school ... it really hits me that those are just little kids and it’s crazy. I just wanted to do something, even though we’re in Alaska and it’s in Connecticut, I just wanted it to happen.”

As she walked around the school and saw all of the white, VanMeter said it “filled her with joy.”

For the victims at Sandy Hook Elementary, VanMeter said she hoped they understood that good people across the nation could come together for them.

“Hopefully it’s just kind of more a little bit of relief for them seeing that even people in Alaska are still thinking of them, even people in small town Soldotna are thinking about it,” she said.

Rashah McChesney can be reached at

* A candlelight vigil is being planned for 6 p.m. Thursday at the Leif Hansen Memorial Park, 10959 Kenai Spur Highway in Kenai. Organizer Krista Kimple said candles would be provided.

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kenai123 12/19/12 - 11:24 am
Violent Entertainment?

Violent Entertainment?

Like everyone else I also am also forced to deal with the internal workings of a psychotic mind which can only resolve its social contradictions with violence. Mass psychotic violence has always been out there but it didn't gain a national profile until the Columbine High School deaths. After that genie was out of the bottle the only thing which could have been worst was for someone to publicized the violence as entertainment to the whole world. Our news media then gladly stepped up and volunteer for the job of then spreading the violent entertainment news. Our news media now regularly shows the world just how important all homicidal maniacs are. Can anyone identify with a person who feels that they have been abused by this world? Many people have been abused by someone or something but most find constructive ways to deal with the situation. How does one arrive at such a pathetic and evil resolution? How does our news media not see that publicizing that resolution is almost as destructive as the homicidal maniac?

When I was a lad of only 12, I was standing at my bus stop one early morning. I was watching a local girl named Ronda who was about the meanest person I had ever seen.
She had been on my bus the day before and had gotten into a shouting match with a boy named Sabine, who greatly disliked her. Words were exchanged which enflamed the pairs hatred for each other until the bus made it to our bus stop. Sabine jumped off the bus with Ronda close behind him but Sabine was pretty fast and was able to stay just out of reach of her. She was a 200 pound 15 year old girl and he was a 95 pound 12 year old boy like me. Ronda was pretty mad when she departed the bus stop that day but she had been verbally abused by Sabine and Sabine had done the same to her. All that night she schemed and planned her revenge for the next morning. I stood there at the bus stop in the morning watching her pace back and forth across the street from me as we waited for our bus. I wished there was a way to warn Sabine but back then we didn't have a cell phone in everyone's back pocket, so I tried to not pay to much attention to what she was doing.

I was talking to one of my friends when suddenly a commotion erupted across the street. I saw Ronda pounce on Sabine and driving him straight onto the pavement.
Sabine made a faint attempt to rise two or three times but each time he was driving back into the pavement by punch after punch. Soon most of Ronda's girl friends were surrounding the assault as Ronda stood their kicking him in the guts as he could not even rise anymore. Ronda's friends were screaming for her to continue her assault but Sabine was so completely out matched that he now only made symbolic attempts to defend himself. He would weakly try to grab at her ankles and hold on but she would just kick loose and begin a new round of kicking him in the stomach. After a while Sabine couldn't even grab onto her ankles so he would only make the attempt and then take the resulting kicks and punches. Ronda's friends were loudly screaming the whole time, they appeared to desire to see Ronda kill him.
The more they screamed the more Ronda seemed compelled to attack him.

There came a point when a single girl stopped screaming, she just stood there staring at Sabine as he lay there on the pavement absorbing the assault. She began to back away from the circle and then wandered off. Soon another girl did the same as their blood lust seem to somehow fade now that Sabine was correctly punished. Soon all the screaming subsided as Ronda just stood there glaring down on him. Somehow all the screaming had helped fuel her attack and
now that it was missing, she had lost most of her angered against Sabine. Sabine was still weakly trying to grab at her ankles but she would just kick free and then stand back glaring down at him laying on the ground. Her eyes then slid off him to the side, like she had thought of something better to do as she then wondered off back towards her friends who had now formed a new circle where they were softly discussing the assault. Sabine eventually sat up, composed himself and tucked his shirt back into his pants just before limping onto the bus with all the other kids a few minutes later.

I had always wondered about three things concerning that assault. One of what would of happened if I would have tried to help Sabine, two of what Ronda was thinking as she stare at him helplessly laying there on the pavement just before her eyes moved off him and she walked away, and three of what would have happened if Ronda's girl friends had not been there to encourage her to continue her assault? I am pretty sure that if I would have tried to help Sabine, I would have also ended up on the pavement beside him and maybe that's what should have happened. As far as what Ronda was thinking, I can only speculate but my guess is that her actions
were somehow driven by the pack of friends which encouraged her. When her friends stopped broadcasting their verbal approval, she suddenly lost her motivation
to continue attacking Sabine.

When I see today's news media sensationalizing the actions of today's homicidal maniacs, I see that same wolf pack circled around Sabine as it glares and screams down on him, while it greedily absorbs his pounding. Can it be any different than a Roman Gladiator ripping and slashing his way across an arena as he tortures, kills or destroys whatever is on the maniac menu for that day? The crowd screams and glare down absorbing the violent spectacle as the Emperor gives him the thumps up, or down, for him to strike the killing blow. 2,000 years later, what has changed? We certainly would not use an arena for this kind of thing today right? Has anyone watched the Hunger Game? Has anyone played a violent video game? Has anyone turned on a television to be entertained by a murderous rampage by our latest national psychotic? People are asking, what is the problem here? The problem is a sick society which actually feeds on entertainment violence the same way the Roman's did back so long ago, only we don't use a simple arena, we feed virtually from video screens in the privacy of our homes or where every. Today's enlightened masses might be outraged to be compared to the crowds viewing a Roman Gladiator slaughtering helpless people and animals but the facts are clear, our news media is just the latest method of recreating the Roman spectacle of violence and death. Our current national homicidal maniac's have replaced the Roman Gladiator as we the audience watch on and give the thumbs up, or down, with our viewership and the money which is exchanging hands behind the scenes. In Roman they used gladiator's to murder people but they also tied helplessly tethered animals as they simply stabbed them to death, just for the entertainment value. Here rest the real question; is our current "news media" using the violent entertainment value of a national homicidal maniac to make a profit?

We have people today claiming that banning weapons would somehow curb this kind of murderous rampage. If Rome would have banned swords, would that have reduced its entertainment blood-lust? I don't think so, they would have just used spears or one of the many other weapons available at the time. The problem is not the tools used to achieve sensationalized violent entertainment. The problem is not the camera, television or even the gun, it is the corrupt desire to somehow get as close as possible to violence without being condemned by society as being violent. It would be like being entertained by viewing someone abusing drugs without you actually receiving the negative fall-out from the abuse. We as a society wish to receive the entertainment of viewing the violence, while leaving the negative fall-out somewhere else. This is what today's media distribution of violence has given us, a society drunk with a desire to be entertained along with a desire to experience the horrific without reaping the negative side of the horrific. Some may ask why should we ban horrific violent entertainment when 99% of the people on the planet can view the stuff and have no negative impact on the world? What is your personal definition of "no negative impact"? How many psychotic mass murderers do you have to create before you admit that we have achieved a negative impact by providing violent entertainment? Why can't we require our new media to just announce in fifteen seconds that 20 people died because of a murderous rampage instead of hours, days and weeks of "in-depth interviews" with the surviving families and the neighbors of their neighbors, as every possible detail of the rampage is dragged across our television screens over and over? When does this "news information" transform into "criminal entertainment"?
People are looking for simple things to blame for murderous rampages but I claim that most of the blame rests within the production of violent entertainment, those who desire to view it and those who desire to allow others to view it.
We just need that single person to back away from the blood-lust circle and stop fueling violent entertainment industry.

Watchman on the Wall
Watchman on the Wall 12/19/12 - 12:29 pm

Very Good post Kenai123. I agree as well as my son Jake who is in the army serving his 16th yr. Jake wrote me an almost exact responce on this sinceless killing and i forewarded it to the Clarion in hopes they would print his opinion. No Moral compass along with the complete promotion of this type of Evil actions. The continual glorification of these things only causes other Evil or hurting wondering souls to repeat or copy these acts for a chance of recognetion. Sad that these things happen, but, when we as a society allow our kids to be controled by TV, Movies or video games which promote such actions and the glorification of killing and the power it instills in misguided people, then it will continue and escalate.
China had a man attack and slice up 22 school kids the very same day with a Samurai Sword. So you see it's not the weapons thats the trouble, it's the human race.
Very sad this has to continue on and be promoted by media nonstop.

bob99507 12/20/12 - 05:27 am

Great point about the weapon not being the issue!

Watchman on the Wall
Watchman on the Wall 12/23/12 - 08:46 pm
So what happened to the Community responce to this tragic event?

Where is the outrage against the weapons which are being blamed now for this sinceless act?
We kill hundreds of thousands each yr from smoking, thousands from operations messed up by Dr, thousands from traffic accidents and only a few hundred deaths from guns.
We kill 6500 a day by abortions of theses same precious children who are much more helpless than those grade schoolers are, but thats ok.
We spent $6 Billion of christ-mas gifts and decorations and we can't spend that on armed guards to protect our precious children at schools.
Where is the Community support that our kids started at school and why the silence from the rest of us on the main topic, Evil allowed to flurish by the Good.
If all the Good carried weapons then when the Evil came the Good would not have to hope and pray that the 911 calls for Good Guys with guns would get their in time to save them, now would they?
Totally upside down this fained idealism for support, when in actuality there is none other than a fleeting support by a select few. Good needs to stand up and fight Evil, NOW.

kenai123 12/24/12 - 12:29 am
The Reason For Sandy Hook?

How can the general public spend time posting on boards about Sandy Hook or any other massacre when they would have to pull themselves away from playing their violent video games or take time from watching The Hunger Game? Why would you want to talk about our news media producing real life Roman Gladiator type violent entrainment for these people to watch if they happen to take a breaks from their violent video's? Maybe after we run a billion hours of violence in front of a billion kids, maybe then we will produce another Sandy Hook massacre for our news media to again capture within their camera's and help keep the cycle going forever? It's like a baton race; the violent video games hand off to the violent DVD's and television movies, who hand off to the violent television news networks then our little maniacs go back to the violent video games again and on and on it goes. Mean while we have insane politician's screaming about all this violence being cause by guns, knifes, bows & arrows and anything else a crazy person might use to kill a person with. Why would any "sane person" want to rid the planet of violence when those same person's are getting their kicks viewing hour after hour of violence? We are a pretty pathetic bunch; we are the Roman Gladiator spectators who think viewing senseless violence is meaningless. Then when we hear that a crazy gladiator somehow got loose and murdered a bunch of people and we are shocked because we never thought that was such a thing were possible. The reason for Sandy Hook is not the crazy gladiator, it is the person viewing meaningless violence.

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