When Nelba Marquez-Greene lost her 6-year-old daughter in the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting in Newtown, Conn., she chose to cope with her loss in a unique way: by writing a letter.
That letter, which addresses teachers and was published Sept. 6 in Education Week, tells a story that will shake any parent to the core.
Marquez-Greene's daughter, Ana Grace, was one of the 20 first-graders killed Dec. 14 when 20-year-old Adam Lanza arrived at the school with a rifle in hand. Six educators were also fatally shot by Lanza before he killed himself.
"While waiting in the firehouse that day to hear the official news that our daughter was dead, my husband and I made promises to ourselves, to each other, and to our son," Marquez-Greene writes. "We promised to face the future with courage, faith, and love."
Marquez-Greene goes on to speak about the courage and bravery of teachers, marveling at how they could return to work after an event as traumatizing as the shooting. When Marquez-Greene asked her son's teacher why she returned, she got an answer that made perfect sense to her as a parent.
"Because they are my kids," the teacher told her. "And my students need me now more than ever."
Marquez-Greene says that the courage of each teacher requires faith and deep love on their part. Her image of a hero, she tells us, is the everyday worker: the principal, school lunch worker, custodian, reading specialist, teacher or bus monitor.
"Real heroes don't wear capes. They work in America's schools," Marquez-Greene writes.
While Marquez-Greene, the mental health director for the nonprofit organization Sandy Hook Promise, admits that she "almost lost her mind" when she had to return her son back to the classroom, she said they sent him back because they didn't want him to be afraid.
"Parents are sending their precious children to you this fall," she writes to the teachers. "Some will come fully prepared, and others not. They will come fed and with empty bellies. They will come from intact homes and fractured ones. Love them all."