Published: Jun 02, 2012 07:00 PM
Modified: Jun 02, 2012 11:03 AM
“I wanted to let you know (name deleted for privacy) drew a picture of a man shooting a woman today,” the teacher wrote. “I have kept it in case you would like to see it. He was very proud of it and said he drew a happy line with pretty colors.”
Kids are resilient, crisis experts tell us. But few would deny the kids at Scroggs Elementary School got one of life’s harder lessons far earlier than any children should May 25, when police say a man opened fire on his estranged wife as she went to pick up the couple’s children. Chahnaz Kebaier, 40, died from her injuries. Her husband Ali Cherfaoui, 49, is charged with first-degree murder.
The fear among parents – undeniable, unimaginable – would have been even greater had Scroggs principal Keri Litwak not sent out an alert minutes after the shooting that no children were hurt. Jim Huegerich, manager of the Chapel Hill Police Department’s crisis team, says the school’s e-mail communication was almost immediate.
Nearby Culbeth Middle School let parents know their students were also safe and on a “soft lock down” a few minutes after that, and Litwak followed up with a second email later that afternoon and a third Monday evening with the plan for the next day.
The message? Kids need “normal.”
Children take their cues from adults, Huegerich says. If we reassure them they are safe, they will feel safe. If we keep our eyes and ears open to any worries they may be having and ask them about it, we can help them process.
And that’s what at least one Scroggs student was doing last week when he drew a picture. Isn’t that how we human beings from earliest times have sought to understand our world, by drawing it?
Adults sometimes forget what it is like to think like a child. We wants facts, information, Huegerich says. They want routine: the ice cream after dinner, family movie night. And if they’re sad, a reassuring hug.
Last Sunday night, two days after the shooting, the Magnolia Klezmer Band played to a Southern Village green packed with lawn chairs.
A man jogged by Scroggs in the elate afternoon sun. A bicycle lay in the grass off the pick-up lane.
It could have been any Sunday but for the flowers – daisies, small red roses, purple tulips – placed outside the school’s main entrance.
In the coming days we will wonder if friends and neighbors could have done more. We will lament the failure of protective orders to protect, and ask as some are already doing whether Chapel Hill and Orange County are doing all we can to keep families safe.
In time, though, our feelings about what happened outside the school, like the flowers, will fade.
That may not be a good thing if it keep us from doing all we can to make our community safer.
But it may be a necessary thing for many of us to move forward.
Kids need normal, the experts tell us.
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