DEXTER – Dexter, Maine has seen its share of tragedies over the years. One only needs to go back to 1999 to remember the execution-style murders of a 20-year-old woman and the toddler she was babysitting. The hope was that a tragedy like this, if it has to occur at all, only happened once.
But tragedy has hit this central Maine community again with the death of a mother and two children at the hands of an estranged husband, killing himself in the end. As a result of this senseless act of violence, a teacher of 15 years and two young children had lives cut short, the victims of domestic violence.
But this is not a story of meaningless killings, but one on how a community struggles to come together, mourns and moves forward. In many small towns throughout Maine, the local schools serve as the center for places where people come together for both joyous times as well as tragedies similar to that in Dexter. By law, school districts are required to have crisis plans in place and are required to review them annually. They outline the protocol and procedures to be used in case of a crisis or emergency. Unfortunately in many cases the plans can never really be tested unless there is a real crisis or situation. But without a doubt, schools play a major role in the safety network in a community, especially when their own are involved. With the recent events in Dexter, their plan was put into place to insure the safety and well-being of all the students and staff; and, as the day progressed, the school served as an unofficial source of information. It was not until the end of the day that the official report from law enforcement was released. With children on their way home, the staff and administration was briefed on the events and prepared for the next school day.
Before the sun set on this horrific day, community and religious leaders had made arrangements for a candlelight vigil to bring people together to begin to grieve. It was estimated that over 500 people attended. One of the characteristics of small communities is the willingness to help others in crisis; and by early the next day, nearly 30 counselors and support staff were available for students and staff as each dealt with the tragic events. Surrounding school districts offered addition help as well.
The town of Dexter, with the help of law enforcement, will be providing counselors for the officers involved. For those not comfortable going to the school, the selectman's chambers will be having counselors available later in the week. According to Dave Pearson town manager, "It is important to provide ways for people to grieve and process and if possible, understand, at some level, what happened so people can move forward. As in the past, the town provided programs at the library and the opportunity for memorial services and similar programs are anticipated." Many local businesses have offered assistance from providing lunches to the counselors and support staff to bottled water and snacks. Reny's offered "anything" in the store that would help.
Being a teacher for 15 years, it is almost impossible to imagine the number of lives Amy Lake had touched. Perhaps there was that one young kindergartener who she "took under her wing" because there was no one at home who cared and he too, a victim of domestic violence. She will be remembered and missed. For the classmates of her son and daughter, the friendships will not be forgotten. The recent shootings in Dexter and Winslow underscore the devastation and tragic impact domestic violence has upon communities. As staff and students wear the purple ribbons to demonstrate their opposition, one only needs to listen to the news or read the paper to get a sense of the amount of work ahead."This content originally appeared as a copyrighted article in the SVWeekly.com and is used here with permission."
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