Three decades ago a 14-year-old student walked into a Kansas junior high school armed with an assault rifle and started firing, killing the school’s principal and wounding two teachers and a student.
On Thursday, the widow of Goddard Junior High School Principal James McGee joined educators from Newtown, Connecticut’s Sandy Hook Elementary School to dedicate a memorial to educators – administrators, teachers, bus drivers and custodians alike – who have been killed while performing their duties, The Emporia Gazette reported.
The Memorial to Fallen Educators, located next to the National Teachers Hall of Fame on the Emporia State University campus, will ensure McGee and at least 112 other educators whose lives ended on duty aren’t forgotten, said Crystal McGee, who attended the dedication ceremony with two of her husband’s siblings and two of his children.
“I think that is one of the hard things about loss,” McGee said. “You lose somebody you love and you see the world going on. So it is important to families to know that the world did stop for a moment to remember him.”
The December 2012 Sandy Hook shootings, in which six educators and 20 students were fatally shot by a 20-year-old assailant, were the motivation for the memorial, said Jennifer Baldwin, administrative assistant for the National Teachers Hall of Fame.
Staffers researched educator deaths all the way back to 1764, where they found the first documented slaying of a teacher, she said.
The 113 names on the memorial are what researchers were able to find, but there undoubtedly are more, Baldwin told The Associated Press on Friday – including two new ones that came in since Thursday’s dedication.
“Doing research, you can find thousands of pages of information about who did the shootings, but you might find two tiny paragraphs about the educators who were killed,” she said. “We are trying to change that.”
Those listed on the memorial died in a variety of ways while performing their roles as educators, Baldwin said, including teachers killed in tornadoes, custodians electrocuted while on the job or bus drivers killed in crashes. One of the main criteria for inclusion is that the educator was on the job at the time of death, she said.
For example, of four educators on American Airlines Flight 77 when it crashed into the Pentagon on 9/11, three who were on a school-sanctioned field trip are included on the memorial while the fourth, who was on vacation, is not, Baldwin said.
Liesl Fressola, a Sandy Hook Elementary teacher, tearfully read the names of the six teachers who were killed in the Dec. 14, 2012, massacre. Among them was Victoria Soto, her closest friend at the school.
“I would much rather be here tomorrow to induct her and my other colleagues into the National Teachers Hall of Fame,” Fressola said in a written statement. “But that will never happen.”