More than a thousand miles separate Newtown, Conn. from Rusk County, but tremors from the shootings at an elementary school remain palpable.
“I think the shock of it has faded, but it’ll be a long time before the images fade away,” said Henderson native Karen Cooper. “Seeing those kids being led out by their teachers, seeing how scared they all were, and seeing the grieving family members […] it’s something that stays with you, like 9/11 or other tragedies like that, I don’t think you ever really get over it.”
In the moments following the first news of the shootings, area residents took to social media and their smartphones to find out more and to share what they had learned.
“All the news stations just kept showing the same clips over and over, but on Facebook and Twitter you could follow what regular people were saying,” said Price teenager Cody Locke. “A lot of debates and arguments started right away too, it’s really got some people going off about gun control and stuff like that.”
Locals agree that the issue of gun control is a controversial one, and the shooting only exacerbates that fact.
“I hate that it happened so quick,” said retired minister Bro. Claude Rains. “I wish the focus could have remained on praying for the families and sharing our grief for a time, rather than jumping right into a 2nd Amendment debate.”
Though no threats to any local schools were reported many Rusk County parents wanted to bring their kids home early.
“As soon as it started happening, it just drowned out everything else in my day,” said Tina Barker, who has three elementary school age children. “I just wanted to have my kids near me and just hold onto them.”