The Dark Knight’s winged symbol was drawn or painted on nearly every poster in the school’s gymnasium as the students, staff and families of Sparks Middle School paid tribute to their fallen hero, their Batman.
“Something that you proved to us is you don’t need to wear a cape to be a hero. Thank you for saving us,” one student wrote.
Another poster read, “You once said ‘I’ll die doing something I love.’ So not only did you die serving your country, but you died saving and protecting the students that love you.”
Katherine Louden, director of counseling for the Washoe County School District, said staff members from Sparks Middle School met at the school Wednesday along with the trauma intervention program, the Crisis Call Center and many other services. Forty counselors were at the school Thursday for the memorial, providing any professional help for families and staff members.
“The students had activities they could do today, which is a lot of what you are seeing on the walls,” Louden said of the memorial. “We had things for them to help them go through the grief and fear they are feeling. Every child and every person who deals with a loss responds differently to a wide variety of services.
“We saw today the kids were really working as a team, connecting with one another, embracing their teachers and several of them did utilize the counseling in place. We will also be in contact over the next several days with families who wanted support and background services.”
Washoe County School District Police Chief Mike Mieras said Sparks Middle would return to school Monday with a few extra officers in the area “for the comforting of the students and parents coming in.” He added that counseling staff would be on hand for those who could not make it to the ceremony and for any parents who have questions.
“This is a family. You have to understand that,” Mieras said of Sparks Middle School. “These students spend over half their day at school with these individuals, and that is really what today was all about.
“The kids really amaze me,” Mieras said. “They came in here and there were some students grieving and some who reached out and helped students and even helped staff. It is truly amazing how students can be like that and bounce back.”
Mieras noted the rallying of the community, bringing strong emotional response to WCSD personnel, including himself when a U.S. Navy Medal for Meritorious Service was placed at the foot of the school’s marquee with a note attached saying, “You deserve this medal in my book.”
“It tears my heart to see that sort of thing,” he said. “It’s heart-breaking. It’s truly amazing that this individual gave up his war medal for Mr. Landsberry.”
Louden said the district's counseling department sought federal advice from professionals who have handled similar situations before bringing the students and staff into the school Thursday. She said it was an important part of the grieving process for the students to return to their school for a quiet moment of reflection.
“It is important for the kids to come into the building,” she said. “They want to come in, see it, get their belongings back, walk around and talk with their teachers. That is something we want to make sure we provide.”
Another candlelight vigil will be held Friday at 6 p.m. at the west peninsula of the Sparks Marina as part of a collaboration between the WCSD and the City of Sparks. People are encouraged to bring their own candles as only a limited amount will be provided.