It’s been a little while since I have written to you all. I have been wanting to write a blog post for a while, but I just haven’t had material that seemed important enough to ask for an investment of your time. That all changed today. As you are probably well aware, today there was a bomb threat at one of our Eagle Mountain elementary schools. (if you weren’t aware, it was at Eagle Valley Elementary). I don’t want to report to you on the specifics of the perpetrator, or his motivations. I’d rather not give him the bandwidth. I will tell you that the threat was credible and the concern was very real. He struck fear and concern into the hearts of hundreds if not thousands of adults all fearing for the well being of their children. This was one of those situations that escalated to a seldom seen level of intensity we would rather not see in our “little” home town.
If you are interested in the details, you can look to any of the major news outlets. They are all covering the situation, and rightly so. I simply don’t have a mind to give this individual any more coverage. He doesn’t deserve it.
If you are like me, you may be wondering what in the world went through this guys head that would make him do something like this. You may even ask yourself “what is this world coming to?” To me it can become a little disheartening to see this garbage on the news every time you turn on the TV. While those are good questions, for me it isn’t so productive to dwell on them.
Instead I want to share a message with you that I hope you will find more uplifting. I have a sister that lives in Eagle Mountain and I think this incident shook her up a bit today. She doesn’t have children at Eagle Valley Elementary, though she does have school age children. As she shared her thoughts and feelings today about the incident, she posted a quote from Mr. Rodgers on her Facebook wall today and it is a quote I couldn’t agree more with.
“When I was a boy and would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are Helping.'” – Fred Rodgers
How appropriate for the events of today! You know the bad of the situation today, but I want to share with you what I observed in Eagle Mountain. First, by the time I was briefed that we had an incident unfolding, all of the children had been evacuated and were far away from the school. Later conversations revealed to me that the principal, Paula Tucker and the staff of Eagle Valley Elementary had appropriately prepared the students to evacuate quickly and seamlessly by performing a series of drills in the beginning of the school year. The result of those drills was that every grade knew where to go and how to get there. It happened quickly. More quickly that I would have believed possible in fact. Having chaperoned field trips, I couldn’t handle eight children let alone several hundred!
To Paula and all of the teachers, aides, and the support staff, I cant express to you enough how grateful I am that you are the ones we entrusted with our children. Today you showed us the true meaning of the word “helper”.
No incident ever goes exactly as planned, and today was no exception. With City hall being over run with school children, I witnessed City staff, parents, and teachers working calmly to attend to the needs of the children. I watched a resident open their home to teachers and children to get them out of the sun.
School administrators from surrounding schools showed up on cue to offer operational support to the teachers who found themselves managing a very stressful situation. Communication flowed as quickly as could be expected in such situations and I received a phone call From Rob Smith at Alpine School District who wanted to make sure I had been briefed on what was going on and how they were ensuring the safety of the children.
The facilities manager of the LDS Church was on scene at the local stake house to open the doors and make sure that the facility was available for children to be bussed to for parent pick up.
City Employees shuttled children to the Stake Center, delivered water and shade structures, entertained children, and disseminated information to all residents.
If you are a parent of children at Eagle Valley Elementary, you may have a different perspective of what happened today. From my observations, I saw nothing less than exceptional people doing exceptional work in the midst of a situation more stressful than most of us will ever encounter. Today, my concern was at an all time high until I witnessed first hand all of the helpers caring for the needs of our youngest residents.
With the children out of harms way, my attention turned to the very tense situation remaining at the now empty school. What I witnessed was many dedicated law enforcement officers and neighboring agencies that acted professionally and carefully. While the children were safe, homeowners across the street from the school were facing an unknown blast threat. Under this intense pressure to resolve the situation, our Law enforcement made the distinction between an imminent threat, and indeterminate threat. The professionalism of our deputies and supporting agencies resulted in the individual being taken in to custody without any loss of life or injury. In my mind, there are probably other outcomes that would have been defensible. In spite of this, a calm hand prevailed and the perpatrator will have his due process as is his right under the Constitution of the United States of America.
I simply can’t say enough about our Utah County Sheriff’s department and the level of dedication and professionalism that they bring to the table as they go about the business of protecting and serving the residents of Eagle Mountain. They are helpers like no other.
I also intended to share with you about the return of David Blair from the Rio Paralympics. David won the gold medal in discus at the games. We had a welcome home procession for him this morning. I had the honor of spending a little time with him and his family at an assembly at a local school where he shared an inspiring message. I wanted to share more about that in a blog post, but I’ll dedicate some time and space to that separately. We can’t pack all of today’s good into such a small space.
In any case, if you are feeling a little discouraged, remember to look for the helpers. I think you will find them all around if you look. That is part of what makes this community so amazing and it is one of the many reasons why this job is a blessing to me.