Dawn Lynch, a first-grade teacher in Frederick, spent her time off during winter break grieving for the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting and working to help the survivors.
During a one-week stay in Hamden, Conn., — about five minutes from the school where 20 first-grade students and six staff members were gunned down on Dec. 14 — Lynch visited Newtown, Conn., and made two donations intended to help the area recover.
Lynch, who teaches first grade at Tuscarora Elementary School, delivered a donation of $500 on Dec. 26 from the Frederick County Teachers Association to the Newtown Board of Education.
Gary Brennan, president of the Frederick teachers union, said the Newtown board set up a fund organized by the local United Way. Eventually, the Connecticut Education Association will use the money to benefit the community, families and staff affected by the shooting, he said.
Lynch, who grew up in New Haven, about 45 minutes from Newtown, said her first job as a teacher was in Danbury, Conn., which is in the same county where Sandy Hook Elementary is located. While teaching the third grade at Shelter Rock Elementary, she visited Newtown.
Lynch was so affected by the tragedy near her hometown that just days after the shooting she began working with Brennan to help the community. Lynch said Monday that she quickly learned that her desire to help was felt worldwide.
“It got to the point where they became inundated,” she said of the books, cards, letters and supplies that filtered in from throughout the United States and the world. “They have lots of help, lots of love, lots of support.”
While in the area, Lynch also delivered a bag of story books from her own collection and some from fellow Frederick County teachers to the Parent Teacher Student Association of Connecticut.
“They had boxes upon boxes of snowflakes and books,” Lynch said.
Less than a month since the shooting, the PTSA of Connecticut already has asked that people stop sending the handmade paper snowflakes used to express support. The group points out on its website that enough snowflakes have been delivered to “blanket” Newtown.
“They were asking people who actually walked in like myself to put in pins [on a map] to designate where all the things were coming from,” Lynch said. “They were very thankful and appreciative.”
She was the first to place a pin in Maryland, she said.
Closer to the site of the shooting, Lynch said there were displays of flowers, balloons, angels and the victims’ names written on fence posts and flags.
“It was just a big memorial,” she said.
Lynch, who returned from Connecticut on Dec. 28, said she continues to be affected by the tragedy, which hit close to home.
Initially, Lynch said she also was worried that her own students would ask her questions about the shooting.
So far, they have not, she said.
“The worst thing in the world would be to make students afraid to come to school,” she said. “That is something that was on my mind. I would always want them to feel safe.”