CHARDON, Ohio - When the news was flashed around the world that a gunman had broken into an elementary school and swept from its barrel a barrage of bullets, each bringing death, much of the nation held its collective breath. The unthinkable had happened again.
Certainly Chardon students felt the pain. The high school was the scene of the murders of three students and the wounding of several others in February. It was as if the gunman had broken into their lives again. In many ways, a gunman, though different, had done that because Chardon was still reeling from the carnage it saw when gunfire echoed through its school hallways.
So the students in Chardon schools, no doubt through teary eyes, are writing letters and cards, putting into words to Newtown that Newtown is loved and held in the hearts of the young writers. Probably, there are pictures being drawn by elementary school-age children in Chardon, which try to convey the point of compassion. Little fingers with crayons drawing lines of love on construction paper will bring tears to the eyes of those who receive the messages.
"We hope that what our Chardon kids are planning will in some way show those folks in Connecticut that there's a lot of love in the world and we're directing it at them today," said Ellen Ondrey, communications director for Chardon schools. She spoke for the children who, understandably, are being shielded from reporters' questions. Ondrey spoke with a noticeable lump in her throat. The emotional wounds from the shootings in her school system are still fresh. When the gunman came running in Newtown, wounds in Chardon were cut open again.
Ondrey said since the tragedy in her community, even before the murders in Newtown, the students had already been involved in "paying it forward." She said there have been ongoing projects involving students sending support and love throughout their own community and beyond.
"We have an active group of kids who make Linus blankets and are turned in ways they never really would have been turned had they never had this tragedy," said Ondrey.
Students across the nation have had to deal with troubles they should never have had to witness. In this changed world, violence has spoken loudly. Still, so too has love. The children of Chardon are reaching out across the miles to children, their parents, their teachers, and others in Newtown, Conn., letting them know they are loved.