A week ago a particularly devastating F5 tornado smashed through Moore, Oklahoma. Helplessly caught in its 17-mile swath of destruction were a couple of elementary schools: Plaza Towers and Briarwood.
As we have seen so often lately, it seems — from Boston to Newtown to Sandy to anywhere the norm suddenly becomes abnormal — first responders were on the scene almost as soon as the danger was gone, if not sooner. It was amazing work.
But then some of the human stories that inevitably rise from the rubble reached out to us.
Many of those stories involved teachers. Again.
I'm beginning to think that teachers — certified, but not sworn to any oath to protect and to serve that I know of — are the original first responders. Maybe in times of trouble they are really the first endurers. In some cases, they are the ones being rescued by first responders.
There's a chance I'm overreacting to all of this, based, as it is, only on the news coverage that I've seen. But it seems that teachers often tend to find themselves at the point of impact, and it is their split-second decisions under trauma and turmoil that can make a difference:
• Teachers herding students into places of safety;
• Teachers sacrificing their own bodies — and sometimes lives — to shield their students from life-threatening danger;
• Teachers providing guidance in the face of total chaos.
In a school setting, who else is there?
I suppose if I were to do some kind of scientific survey it would show that teachers are no more braver, no more dedicated, no more motivated in the face of crisis than any other cross section of the population at any given moment.
I wonder how I'd react in the same circumstances? I hope I never have to find out.
I guess it's just that I don't expect teachers to be at the point of impact in the first place. I want my teachers to be in classrooms, giving lessons, monitoring tests, being role models.
I don't want them to be heroes.
But I'm glad they are.