The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

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December 16, 2012

Following Connecticut tragedy, local officials discuss school safety

— By Rebecca Croomes and Kim West

           The News Courier

The nation watched in horror Friday after a gunman opened fire at an elementary school in Connecticut and killed 26 people, 20 of them children.

According to multiple news reports, a man identified as 20-year-old Adam Lanza entered Sandy Hook Elementary School in picturesque Newtown, Conn., Friday morning, and opened fire inside the K-4 school before turning a gun on himself.

Among the dead at the scene were 20 children and seven adults, including the school principal, a mother of five, and the suspected shooter.

“So our hearts are broken today — for the parents and grandparents, sisters and brothers of these little children, and for the families of the adults who were lost,” President Obama said during a press conference at the White House Friday. “In the hard days to come, that community needs us to be at our best as Americans.”

The president also ordered flags to fly at half-staff until Dec. 18.

Limestone reaction

In Limestone County, school officials are taking the shooting seriously.

“Certainly the administration will go back and revisit our preventive measures for intruders,” said Athens City Superintendent Dr. Orman Bridges. “If there was a preventive measure that could stop this sort of thing, every school would put it in place.”

Bridges said his staff became distraught upon learning of the shootings.

“People were just in tears. Many of our staff members were in tears. We are all in this thing as a family. We are all in this business together. It affects us all.”

Athens Police Chief Floyd Johnson said the situation was horrific.

“I just feel for the families up there,” Johnson, a father himself, said. “We cannot understand what makes something like this happen.”

Johnson wanted to assure the community that the police are monitoring the situation.

“If we have a problem, we’ll respond to it as best we can,” Johnson said. “You always gotta be ready.”

Johnson said he hoped his department never has to respond to such an event. Officers patrol school zones every weekday morning, Johnson said, and if there were an issue, he felt the response would be quick.

“My kids will go to school Monday,” Johnson said. “You trust and hope they’ll be fine.”

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