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Bears Franklin copes with Newtown tragedy

POSTED December 23, 2012
BY Rick Wilson
Twitter: @scribewilson

A Closer Look


                                Bears Franklin copes with Newtown tragedy

            THOMASTON –  Gary Franklin is a top notch teacher but this was a class he hadn’t prepared for. It was the class he never dreamed in his wildest imagination he would have to direct. There was no way he could. After all, how do you prepare for something so horrific it doesn’t appear on the radar?

            How do you prepare for the morning after? There is no manual here. For all the training you do to lead a classroom as Franklin noted Tuesday night, “when you do undergraduate courses they don’t prepare you for this.”

            Thomaston High’s boys basketball coach left THS late this summer to take a job as a history teacher in Newtown High School. The rest as they say is horrible history that has cast the darkest of clouds over this country for the last week, breaking the most hardened of hearts.

            Franklin was on a field trip at Education Connection in Litchfield last Friday when word of the gruesome tragedy began to unfold. In the world of the I-Phone, his students found out quickly.

            With Newtown High School in Lockdown, there was no returning to the school so he had to have the parents of his  stunned students contacted individually to get permission to drop them off at their respective homes.

            “Words can’t express the shock,’ said Franklin at the THS gym Tuesday night as his Bears prepared to take on Litchfield.

            Throughout the weekend there was his family that includes a pair of adorable daughters, five-year old Calleigh and one-year old Addison to get lost in and his basketball team. Never underestimate the power of each.

            I found Franklin at the THS gym at 8 a.m. Saturday morning. It wasn’t a duty of drudgery. It was where Franklin wanted to be.

            “It was pretty therapeutic coming here,” said Franklin. “At the beginning of practice they players gave me a hug and I didn’t have to start practice, the captains got things going. The team is my family. I have former colleagues in Thomaston they are part of my family.”

            Franklin found some relief in a bouncing ball and those who bounce it along with his friends in Thomaston. But, there was still the morning after.

            Newtown High School went back to school Tuesday with a two-hour delay. The staff met in those two hours to talk about one another and what was about to come – the arrival of students.

            Who knew what to expect.

            “A lot of kids deal on different levels,” said Franklin. “Some are outward with their emotions, some keep it inside. Obviously curriculum at this time as not a priority.”

            For the first five minutes of the classes Franklin had his students walk around, shake hands with their classmates and share some hugs. He participated.

            He then gave his students notecards and asked they to write down how they felt. Did they have any concerns? What do you feel you need from me?

            “A lot of it was about easing back into things a little at a time,” said Franklin.

            His classes then talked about how they could support the community. The classes worked on children’s books with a topic of their choosing with the remaining time. The books will be sent to the students of Sandy Hook Elementary School.

            “Something to read and enjoy’ said Franklin.

            Franklin was back at thy gym Tuesday night slowly building some of the bounce back. His team trounced Litchfield by 40 points, the most lopsided win of his short career. Maybe it mattered less in the big scheme things, the dark cloud still hovering. But, it mattered. It helped. Another piece of the healing puzzle.

            So close to the epicenter of the unthinkable, like so many of his Newtown colleagues, Franklin had to face the morning after, both individually and for his students. A new beginning, shrouded in the events of the present, got off to a good start.

            Nothing erases, everything helps. Family, basketball, hugs and picture books. It is a long journey but it has to start somewhere. It has started and the road ahead brings the promise and hope for better days. 

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