PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – It has been nearly a year since the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.
While the community continues to heal, a teacher who survived is traveling around the country, trying to make a difference.
On Dec. 14, 2012, the nation watched as an unimaginable tragedy unfolded.
A lone gunman entered the school in Newtown, Conn. and shot and killed 20 children and six teachers.
The horrific situation struck the core of the country. That day changed the lives of many, including Kaitlin Roig-Debellis.
“We were the first classroom in the school, so when the shooting began, I knew immediately we were in imminent danger because I heard the very first shot fired,” Roig-Debellis said.
The first grade teacher hid her 15 students in a tiny bathroom. She told them she loved them and they waited for help.
“Every day it’s waking up and realizing that I am here, that my students are here, that awareness that it so easily could have been my life,” Roig-Debellis said.
Today, she shared her story at New Castle Junior-Senior High School.
School leaders from Lawrence and Mercer counties were also in attendance.
Roig-Debellis is taking a year off from teaching to visit schools and to focus on the non-profit she founded called Classes 4 Classes.
It’s an organization that helps educators actively teach about kindness, compassion, empathy and hope.
“The world was sending things to our school, from pencils to cupcakes, you name it, it was sent and after giving and giving to my students, while it was so amazing to see their smiles, I realized that as their teacher, I needed to take the time to teach them that in life when you get, you have to give,” Roig-Debellis said.
Her first graders started sending money and supplies to other students in need.
Now, schools across the country can do the same through the website, Classes4Classes.org.
“My message is really that it’s all about perspective and how you view the things that happen to you. We don’t have choice over what happens to us in our lives, but we have all of the power in how we choose to react to it,” Roig-Debellis said.