Monday morning, students made their way into Mesa Verde Elementary School like they have done every school day this year, except on that day, 9-year-old Christina Taylor Green did not join them.
Ribbons, posters, flowers, candles and numerous other things lined and covered the school’s front fence in a show of support for families and friends, and an expression of sadness for the loss of Christina, who was shot and killed during a gunman’s attack at the Safeway at Ina and Oracle roads this past weekend.
“Kids are taking it a lot better than us adults,” said Carol Wilson, who works with after-school programs. She and program co-worker Sabrina Glenn waited until all the youngsters were in class to place some flowers and a small sign near the end of the fence. Wilson has worked at the school for the past three years, during which Christina has been there.
The tragedy has rippled across students and families, like the Clark family, whose 9-year-old daughter Kayley is in Kathie DeKnikker’s third-grade class, the same one as Christina.
“I shop at that Safeway every week,” Kayley’s mom, Tamara Clark, said on Monday afternoon. “That is the main store we shop out of. So, it really did hit us close, because we are so close.
“You always hear of these national tragedies, but not in Tucson. You hear of them in other cities and other states,”
But this did happen in Arizona, and it did happen in Tucson.
Over the weekend, Mesa Verde Elementary School Principal Foster Hepler called each parent with a child in the third grade to make sure no one was caught off guard when they returned to school. The heads-up gave the parents a chance to tell their kids about the bad news beforehand.
The Clarks first heard the tragic details from a friend who called and told Tamara that the girl who was killed attended Mesa Verde. Knowing Christina was 9 years old and the school has only two third-grade classes, there was a 50-50 chance their daughter was in the same class. After receiving a call from the school’s principal on Sunday morning, the Clarks, like many other families around northwest Tucson, had to tell their child something that no parent wants to tell them.
“When we first told her, she immediately cried, and that was about it,” Mrs. Clark said. “Then it took about five minutes and she walked out of the room. And we thought that she was just going to go play and do whatever she wanted. Then I heard her screaming in the other room with my mom.”
Kayley screamed into the couch, asking why the man did this and why did he do this to her friend. From there, it has been a mixture of emotions for their daughter. She is sometimes sad, other times angry. She would seem happy and then would later be seen sad and crying.
During school on Monday, the teachers read a pre-scripted message to the kids, telling them about the incident and let them know counseling was available for both students and teachers.
Youngsters in Kayley’s class made cards and letters for Christina while teachers tried to maintain as much structure in the classroom as possible.
“She touched the hearts of many students and adults here at Mesa Verde,” Hepler wrote on the school’s Web site. “Her beaming smile was infectious and she was well-known by many students here at Mesa Verde. This horrible event took the life of a spirited, bright, young girl who, in her beautiful way, provided all of us here at Mesa Verde with wonderful memories.
“She will not be forgotten. Our hearts go out to her family and our Mesa Verde family.”
Editor’s note: The family of Christina Taylor Green established a memorial fund in honor of their daughter. To donate, go to www.cfsoaz.org, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or send a check to: The Community Foundation for Southern Arizona, In Memory of Christina Taylor Green, 2250 E. Broadway Blvd., Tucson, AZ 85719.
Dealing with a traumatic incident
Use these tips if your child is dealing with a traumatic incident.
• Listen carefully.
• Acknowledge feelings as normal.
• Be sensitive to individual circumstances and different points of view.
• Don’t respond with “you’re lucky it wasn’t worse.”
• Instead, say that you are sorry such an event has occurred and you want to understand and help.
• Don’t take emotional responses, like anger, personally.
• Respect an individual’s need for privacy. If someone doesn’t want to talk about the incident or their feelings, don’t insist.
Helping Family and Friends
• Offer to spend time with the traumatized person. Reassure them they are safe now.
• Offer help with everyday tasks like cleaning, cooking and caring for the family.
• Respect their need for privacy and time alone.
• Suggest available help (at work, community resources, church groups, etc.)
Source: Jorgensen/Brooks Group