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Thinking About Texas And Our Children

LITTLETON, Colo. (CBS4) -- The Columbine Memorial was a quiet place Wednesday as the nation mourned the killing of school children and teachers in Uvalde, Texas. On it's walls, inscriptions remain with messages of hope things would get better after the 1999 shooting in Colorado. "It brought the nation to its knees, but now that we've gotten back up, how have things changed; what have we learned?" reads one inscription.

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Nearby families brought their children to the Clement Park playground on a warm evening. "I'm like, oh my goodness another one?" said mom Angela Gordon, who is raising three children. "It's like OK do I start my kids day by like, 'Oh did you hear about this and are we going to talk about this?' and I decided no, so it wouldn't start their day with fear."

Gordon and longtime friend Kelly Hardison were at the playground with their children thinking about the families in Texas. "I will tell you though when I tucked them into bed last night afterwards I just sat next to their beds and I cried," Hardison said.

Both of the women attended Columbine High after it reopened following the shootings. They each had a brother at the school when the killings occurred.

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"I'll never forget that day, it was like it was yesterday," Gordon said. "She thought things would change. "You would think after something as horrific as that would have changed the trajectory of how we protect our kids in schools."

Now, they are talking with their children about what's happened in Texas.

"Parents are human too, and parents have their own reactions.," said Psychologist Dr. Anat Geva, a member of the crisis assessment team at Health One Hospitals. "They've been around the block once or twice, and so this could be very triggering for them as well. So giving oneself grace and realizing this is a hard conversation."

Geva advised parents to be aware and prepared.

"Know that you may be going into a conversation that may be really hard for your child," Geva said. "So everyone reacts differently, and be accepting of whatever your child brings in. This is not the time to politicize. This is not the time to moralize, be really a time to provide that reassurance if your kid needs it. And really provide a safe space where they can share their anxieties and their fears, which sometimes it's a little difficult to do in a school setting."

The moms had been talking to their children. But in the morning on the way to school, Angela had decided to just play a song they loved. "We jammed out to it, and we're like this is the last day of school. Summer is about to be here and just be sure to hug and love your kids a little tighter and more before I dropped them off because you never know what can happen."

Kelly's oldest, a 9-year-old, was asking about the shooting. "And she came in to me today and asked questions because she had seen something on her tablet about you know there was a shooting."

Dr. Geva says trauma hits differently. "Being responsive to our kids is meeting them where they're at right now. And not trying to move them in any direction, really accepting them."

Angela notes that her fears for her 7-year-old daughter are greater than for her 14-year-old son, as shootings take place in elementary schools.

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"For my son, I think the act of fight or flight is a little bit more, they're conscious of," Hardison said. "But little ones, they're just scared, and the only one they're going to listen to is the adult in the room telling them where to go."

She is conscious of the needs of children in crisis too, observing that schools have been safe havens for children in bad family situations. But their roles as those safe refuges are changing with more shootings. "And something does need to be done about it. Whether it's gun laws, protection in our schools, metal detectors, whatever it is. I'm all for it."

Kelly is planning to keep her children close, not worrying about being a so-called helicopter parent. "Are we really OK with sacrificing our babies? Like, am I going to have to worry about his pre-school next year now?" she said about her 5-year-old boy.

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