For Men’s Health, Gloria Liu takes us inside a support network for school principals who have experienced gun violence, including current and retired leaders of Columbine in Littleton, Colorado; Sandy Hook in Newtown, Connecticut; and Marjory Stoneman Douglas in Parkland, Florida. It’s a club that shouldn’t have to exist, but it does. Liu describes the much-needed space these colleagues-turned-close friends have carved out for self-care and healing—and an emotional support network to lean on each time a new school shooting opens up their collective wound.
ON THE 16TH of February, 2018, two days after Thompson was pulled off a plane into a nightmare, the community of Parkland began to bury its children. Thompson attended two funerals that day, one the next, three the following, and so on. School would not resume, he decided, until all the services were held, and he went to a viewing or funeral for every victim except one, because there were two services at the same time. . . .
A day or two after the tragedy, Thompson got a call from DeAngelis, the former principal of Columbine. DeAngelis asked him, “What are you doing to take care of yourself? Your family?” Thompson doesn’t remember much of that first conversation. His head was spinning. But DeAngelis would check in on him again and again.
Another call came from Kathy Gombos, the principal of Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut, where 26 children and adults were slain in 2012. Gombos warned Thompson to get ahead of the mail; Sandy Hook had reportedly received 65,000 teddy bears. In Parkland, several carts arrived daily bearing letters, banners, and donations. Thompson organized teams to sort through the deluge. But some donations he dealt with personally, like the 30,000 cupcakes sent by a bakery.