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I don’t change my jewelry often. I occasionally change my earrings or necklace just for the day but for the most part, I have three or four old reliables I either rotate into my wardrobe, or save for some sort of occasion. When I left to study abroad in college, my mom bought me the angel outlined above. The floating heart I think was given to me as a baby–I am not entirely sure. But when life throws me a curve ball and I have difficulty breathing, I put this pair on and I have a little more faith that I will get through relatively unscathed–to the other side.

We suffered a major tragedy this week at school. I’d rather not get into details but a former student who happens to be both my co-worker’s son and one of our current 8th grader’s brother, was killed this week. He was 16. The details are horrific and I can’t even begin to imagine the pain, suffering and utter devastation they all feel right now.

When I woke up this morning, I removed my pendant I have been wearing since February, the one I bought when I decided to be a teacher in 2001, in order to put on the angel and heart. It helped today, I am not going to lie. When overwhelmed, confused or unable to speak, I usually clasp my throat. The mere jingle of the charms reminded me that I’m here, I am okay, I can endure.

The news was broken to we staff members yesterday while on a field trip with our students. We couldn’t react in front of them because they didn’t know. I took a brief walk and called my mom, just to tell her I loved her. My voice froze halfway through, and it took nearly everything I had to say I was okay.

When I entered school today, the first staff member I saw hugged me close. I thought I was okay but I crumbled. Living alone is awesome, but I have to say, not having human contact sometimes is hard. I watched teachers, counselors, and students walk around red-eyed and zombie-like. I was grasped so tight by a student that I wasn’t even able to cry, but my soul nearly dropped out of me. She wouldn’t let go, so I kept her with me during yard duty, literally holding her and crying with her.

Sadly, my 11 years of teaching have been spreckled with some serious tragedies. I can keep it together for the most part in order to keep kids feeling safe. But this afternoon, when my 4th period class asked me what to do tomorrow at graduation when their teacher and classmate returned, I was at a loss. One of my girls begged her classmates to not over-crowd or bombard them. “Please, please, please. Allow them their space. You don’t need to do anything tomorrow. Please,” she said, through her tears.

I had two minutes left with my most challenging and yet most phenomenal group of students this year, and I took advantage of it. And just like on the phone with my mom, I got stuck in the words while my eyes welled up. I told them how proud I was to be a part of a community with such compassion, love, and thoughtfulness. I told them to never forget how much we all need people, and that it was a privilege to teach them. That they’d go far as human beings. And then I cried.

It started with a few of my girls who suggested a group hug, but then everyone smooshed in, thoughtfully, softly. And I was surrounded by 26 kids, and we smiled and laughed and cried together through the pain.

I took my necklace off tonight while watching TV. I returned my pendant to my neck and felt like things went back to normal just a little. They will never be the same, but we can all grasp at whatever it is we believe in–faith, religion, or even a necklace–to help us get by.

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I know I didn’t talk about the music today. Oddly enough, the songs talk about loss and moving on and tears. For me, A Hard Rain’s A Gonna Fall is a heartbreaking song. But all six are in their own way. Here’s a line from two that tie in to today’s events:

“I’m one of a million pieces fallen on the ground. It’s one of the reasons when we say goodbye, We’ll still come around…We will come around” Counting Crows

 “Where black is the color, where none is the number. And I’ll tell and think it and speak it and breathe it. And reflect it from the mountain so all souls can see it. Then I’ll stand on the ocean until I start sinkin’. But I’ll know my songs well before I start singin’. And it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard, and it’s a hard It’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall” Bob Dylan.

Come Around–Counting Crows

Desecration Smile–Red Hot Chili Peppers

For You Blue–The Beatles

A Hard Rain’s A Gonna Fall–Bob Dylan

Orange Blossom Special–Johnny Cash

Sneaky Feelings–Elvis Costello