The Crisis Center

Karl Decker spent 40 years as a Staples English instructor. In “retirement,” he’s a very active photographer and writer.

Karl lives in Monroe, not far from Newtown. Today, he volunteered at the crisis center in that devastated town. He wrote to family and friends:

Just back from the crisis center, the huge Newtown Middle School.  I got there just  before 10. The place was packed. Police there, but in low profile. Got hugged by the town’s youth officer. No media allowed. I went in, saw the DCF people, made myself known, signed the sign-up sheet for on-call counselors. I signed up for 24/7.

But as I left, my job brought itself to me:  to greet people as they started walking across the parking lot from their cars. It happened at once. A family was walking towards me and I approached them and said, “My name is Karl. I’m a counselor. May I walk you to the entrance?” I had no refusals. And that was my routine until 3:30 when things thinned down, the sun fell behind clouds and a chilly wind came up.

In the 30 seconds it took to walk to the doors, I heard all the stories: “My son’s little buddy was killed…we know the family of…the teacher was at our house for dinner a week ago…we used to live in Sandy Hook…my daughter doesn’t know what happened yet, how do I tell her…I just wanted to be with people today…” And some just in silence…

Many people in Newtown -- first responders as well as families -- took advantages of crisis counseling in Newtown today.

Many people in Newtown — first responders as well as families — took advantages of crisis counseling in Newtown today.

Little children, moms and burly firemen fathers held my hand the length of the walk…and there was a therapy dog (from Vermont!) outside, too, which we all stopped to pat. I’d take them to the door, turn them over to DCF and get back out for the next ones…groups of kids from the high school, the high school football captain came alone and then, after noon, counselors, psychologists began to arrive to volunteer–they came from all over–Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York City, Rhode Island, towns in Fairfield County. Some asked me for directions to a motel so they could stay in case called.

Two unusually well-groomed and lovely young women arrived in a car with Maryland plates, I approached them as I did the others and they turned out to be from the FBI. Their jackets read “FBI Incident Investigations.”  But mostly moms, dads, grandparents, families one after the other. Then the food arrived. A truckload of pizzas, two SUVs from Panera’s, cases of water, a portable coffee canteen, ice cream, and a cafeteria was set up.  Families bringing food. Flowers.

And then there was a little boy named Casey who I’d walked in with, who on his way out came over to show me the drawing (there was a big children’s therapy room with food, art supplies, etc.) he had made of his friends… A row of colorful figures in joined hands with smiles and hats and toys and one figure, only in black and white, clearly a skeleton. A man brought out a ham and cheese sandwich and hot coffee for me.

So there are some fragments of the day. I do not know what tomorrow’s schedule will be, but I’ll be somewhere anyway.

Love, Karl

18 responses to “The Crisis Center

  1. That’s the Karl Decker I knew from my HS days.

  2. Wow…that makes it real…thanks, Karl, for sharing.

  3. J Randolph Christophersen

    The Saugatuck Congregational Church will hold a candle light vigil on the lawn of the Church tonight at 7 PM to pray for those devastated by yesterdays horrific events in Newtown. Date: Sat, 15 Dec 2012 22:46:22 +0000 To:

  4. “… A row of colorful figures in joined hands with smiles and hats and toys and one figure, only in black and white, clearly a skeleton.”
    This image is stunning in its simplicity, a graphical emotional schematic of what these children…all of our children, are being asked to make sense of…the hardest lesson of all, delivered savagely and so young: how to make sense of the senseless.
    Thank you Karl Decker…this is journalism of the highest order, and no tagline, title or theme song cranked out of the production department. Thank you 06880 for being a safe and reflective place in this storm, and in the best way, a gathering of those seeking to fill back the emptiness, to undarken, to be healed.

  5. Thank you Mr Decker- you’re making hte same impact now as you did for all of us at Staples over the decades. I’m sure you’re large, gentle presence is still just as comforting and welcoming

  6. In times like these we are all connected, by the breath of life from our Lord and Savior: Jesus. We are praying for All the children and all the families and teachers. God Bless you Bob W.

  7. Another crushing experience…..

    Sent from my iPad

  8. Thank you for sharing this Karl Decker. By the way, I want to thank you for being such a great teacher at Staples High School. You were my favorite teacher, which is funny to say as you used to report my skipping class to my mother who was a teacher’s aide in the history department. God Bless you Mr. Decker for volunteering for these poor people in Newtown and thank you for being such a great teacher when I was in Staples High School. Jeff Launiere

  9. Hi Karl. Reading this from near Townshend. Maybe you have read about my Sally’s sweet efforts. Thanks. ~ Still tearing up, but happy people are doing what they know how to. You guys are both better than me. I remain paralyzed.

  10. Karl – I’m so glad to know that your kind face, and heart, were there to greet those seeking comfort. Thanks for sharing your day with us. Sending thoughts of strength and peace your way. – Rosene

  11. Mr. Decker,
    You took care of a bunch of us at Staples for so many years!! Once again you are taking care of us again, through your actions, through your volunteerism, through your everlasting kind heart!!
    Thank you for being there to help our neighbors in Newtown, thank you for
    Tom Wall
    Staples ’70

  12. Thanks Karl, Mr. Decker, for what you are doing. You were my favorite teacher at Staples. Best, George Waller ’64.

  13. Far away in the Heartland of the US, my heart aches with the tragedy of Newtown, CT. Thank you to Karl Decker for bringing out the importance of the human touch amidst all the other news.
    John Davidoff
    Staples ’78
    Evanston IL

  14. Gabriel phillips

    It has been over a decade since we’ve spoken. I must comment that as usual you have moved many with very few words. As always, you are an inspiration through your writing and actions. My apologies for the poor grammar-I have learned much since your class, but forgotten more. Thank you Mr. Decker.

  15. Mr. Decker – if you need a break and a place to rest, eat, collect your thoughts as you contribute to the healing, please know that our door is always open. Dan and Nicole Donovan

  16. westporter4ever

    God Bless you Mr Decker…i cant think of anyone better to help Newtown parents. And thank you for being a great teacher…you were very supportive to my brother and I when our Dad died(my brother was in you class then)..and then my maternal grandmother (when i was in your class)…Megan Acquino

  17. Karl – You were far and away my favorite teacher in high school, and are one of the reasons I became a teacher. Thank you so much,

    Aaron B. O’Connell
    Class of 1991

  18. I don’t know you. But thank you. What a gift you have to give. And reassurance for those of us too far away to step in to help.