SPARKS, NV - One week after a shooting left a popular teacher and a 12-year-old gunman dead and two students wounded, students and staff returned Monday to Sparks Middle School.
No one needed to be reminded of what took place a week earlier. It was burned into collective memories. A makeshift memorial on a fence bore candles, flowers and personal messages. There were more inside the school's gym.
But there were also signs the students and staff here have plenty of support
It will take a lifetime, of course, for some to erase the memory of what they witnessed here last Monday.
"The good news is most people do recover from this kind of trauma," says Cathy Paine, chair of the National Emergency Assistance Team from the National Association of School Psychologists.
And the first steps toward that goal were taken Monday morning as students arrived for their first day since the tragedy.
Paine's team is dispatched to help schools recover from these incidents. She's been doing this work since her own school in Oregon had a shooting in 1998. She says we're on the right path.
The first step she says is to reassure everyone of their safety. There was extra security at Sparks Middle School and it was highly visible.
There were a number of counselors on hand and we're told some students asked for help.
But the most important step taken may have been the return to school itself.
"There's a lot of security in routine," says Paine. "One of the important things is that kids do get back to school, get back to routine, get back to their class schedule."
It, of course, was not a routine school day, but the signs were there, even in the attendance figures.
More than 600 students returned Monday. Only 37 were absent.
That is a normal day and one week after an horrific incident that itself was encouraging.