December 15, 2012

Dispatches from Maine

From staff and news services

GORHAM

Former Newtown student recalls school as cheery, light

The shootings Friday at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., hit close to home for one family in Gorham.

Abby Mattingly, now 16, attended kindergarten at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

She found out about the shootings while she was in a study hall at Gorham High School around 10 a.m. Friday, and immediately text-messaged her parents.

"I see the headline, and I saw that it was Newtown," she said. "It was just completely devastating."

Mattingly, a junior at Gorham High, remembers her kindergarten classroom as cheery and full of light.

Her father, Matt Mattingly, 45, who owns the PineCrest Inn, said the school was a warm, caring learning environment.

A staffer greeted each kindergarten student in the morning, he said, and teachers stayed in touch for years after his family moved away.

He didn't know whether his daughter knew any of the staff members who were killed at the school Friday. "I think it's hard for her to get hands around her memories of kindergarten, and the pictures on the news."

PORTLAND

Parents should let kids 'lead way' in dealing with tragedy

Anne Lynch, executive director of the Center for Grieving Children in Portland, offered advice to parents to help their children deal with the tragedy.

She said parents may see that children are reluctant to be separated from them, especially when it is time to return to school.

Other common responses include changes in appetite and difficulty sleeping, she said.

As with other experiences children may have with loss, death, and grief, Lynch said, the children should be allowed to "lead the way" with their own questions regarding the shooting in Connecticut.

"Answer children's questions the best you can, keeping in mind that it is always OK to say that you don't know the answer, and to share your own feelings," she said.

Parents and children also should take breaks from the news, she said, to limit exposure to disturbing images and stories.

AUGUSTA

LePage orders flags lowered, says he'll pray for families

Gov. Paul LePage ordered U.S. and Maine flags to be flown at half-staff through Tuesday evening, in accordance with a proclamation by President Obama as a mark of respect for the victims of Friday's shootings.

LePage in a statement said his thoughts and prayers are with the affected families and community.

LePage called it a horrific event and said he and his wife, Ann, will pray for the families of the people who lost their lives "in what should be the safest of places, their school."

Rep. Pingree: 'Our schools should be a safe place'

U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingee, D-Maine, issued a statement in which she described the incident as "every parent's worst nightmare."

"Our schools should be a safe place and no parent should ever worry that their son or daughter might not come home at the end of the day," she said.

 

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