Las Vegas Sun

September 21, 2014

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Tragedy compels tough conversations among valley families

Connecticut Elementary School Shooting

David Freedman, right, kneels with his son Zachary, 9, both of Newtown, Conn., as they visit a sidewalk memorial for the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting victims, Sunday, Dec. 16, 2012, in Newtown, Conn. Launch slideshow »

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Katie Kincheloe had planned to shield her third- and fifth-grade boys from the news of the elementary school shooting in Newtown, Conn., but then her fifth-grader asked a question she couldn’t avoid.

“How do I know my school is safe?,” he asked on the car ride home from school.

He had a somber, sad look on his face. She knew he was aware of the elementary school shooting in Connecticut where 20 students about his age died. She expected him to ask questions like, who did this or what happened? His question was oddly mature, and it took her a moment to gather her thoughts.

“I told him when bad things like this happen, it definitely makes the school district look at how things are run, and (increase) security,” said Kincheloe, who is also the president of the Nevada PTA.

“It’s very hard as a parent to say that this couldn’t happen here. I’m sure so many parents have said that a million times, but the reality is, it could happen anywhere, anytime. How do you teach a fifth-grader not to be afraid?”

Kincheloe wasn’t the only parent in the Las Vegas Valley who had to grapple with explaining the tragic event that occurred that day. The incident may have happened on the opposite end of the country, but its impact struck home for many parents and children old enough to know what happened.

Dave Flatt said he and his wife spent two hours talking to their 15-year-old son Nicky, who is a sophomore at Green Valley High, about the situation. They watched the coverage on CNN and discussed the importance of being vigilant of one’s surroundings while at school.

“The major question was, ‘Why would it happen?’” Flatt said. “That’s the toughest question of all because we just don’t know why.”

“You answer it as any father would answer it — that there is no reason.”

Meanwhile, James Holliday had to determine if he should tell his 5-year-old twins, who attend Tarr Elementary School, about the shooting. He said the news left him and his wife in shock — what if it was their kids?

He said he has plans to sit them down and talk about the incident before they hear it from older cousins. He wants them to understand why they do the safety drills in school; he wants them to be safe.

“I know they’re still young, but obviously it’s a reality these days,” Holliday said.

Kincheloe said her 10-year-old son also asked for ways he could help the families of victims.

“He wants to know everything about it because these are kids his age,” Kincheloe said. He feels he’s a part of it somehow.”

Still, her third-grade son isn’t aware of the incident, and she isn’t sure she should tell him. She wants to protect his innocence, at least for a little longer.

“I didn’t want to tell them in first place because I didn’t want to instill that fear in them,” Kincheloe said. “They’re still kids, they don’t need the fear of going to school and being afraid.”

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