Chardon Superintendent: Remembering Victims ‘Keeps me Stronger’
CHARDON, Ohio — Joseph Bergant II has served as superintendent of Chardon Local Schools for seven years.
Nothing could have prepared him for the tragic events of February 27, 2012, when 17-year-old T.J. Lane allegedly opened fire inside of Chardon High School, killing three students and wounding two others–one critically.
“I was on my way to a training when I got the call Monday morning. My immediate response was, turn the car around and go to the high school,” said Bergant.
Bergant says the district practiced emergency drills before, even the same scenario.
“When the alarm went off, the kids took it seriously. Step by step, people did what they needed to do. I can’t talk about specifics because the shooting is still under investigation, but I can say that things were done very well,” said Bergant.
The tragedy has been very difficult for Bergant personally. He still can’t talk about some events.
“A situation of this nature, there are three families that don’t children. And I think about my own; that’s the piece that’s hard. Every time I think about the incident, I think about my own family. That’s hard. And if it happened to you, what would you do?” said Bergant.
And while still hurting, the district has invited parents and the public into the high school Sunday to see the displays of love and support that has helped many students heal.
“We can’t go in one day and take everything down. We are going to do it as we’ve been schooled by some of the post traumatic stress professionals. Take some of the things away gradually, memorialize some things, perhaps some cards and letters and scrapbooks. And let some kids make some choices in that as well,” said Bergant.
And through this tragedy, the Chardon community has made a choice to come together as one town, one heartbeat.
“It’s almost a spiritual awakening that there are more important things to do in life than worry about your job everyday or be angry at somebody. I think people really took the advice to hug your kid, and I think people took the advice to be kinder to other people,” added Bergant.
As for the Superintendent’s thoughts and message for the families of Daniel Parmertor, Russell King and Demetrius Hewlin: “My deepest condolences for them. There are no words for that, other than the fact that I will always remember them. I’ll always remember their children. And it keeps me stronger,” said Bergant.
The Community Walk Through is Sunday from 3:00 – 5:00 p.m.