Arianna Huffington presented an award Monday evening during the Glamour Women of the Year 2013 Awards to Kaitlin Roig-Debellis, a heroic teacher at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
As shots rang out, Roig-DeBellis calmly but firmly told her 15 first-grade kids to get into the bathroom, fast. She packed them into the roughly three- by four-foot space, blocked the door, and waited. The children, she says, "knew something bad was happening. But I had to keep them calm. If one of them started to cry, we all would have cried." They whispered their wishes: Christmas. A hug from Mom. To be let out to fight the bad guys with karate.
"In the middle of this horrific act, a miracle happened: Fifteen first graders survived and are alive today because of the courage, love and devotion of one teacher," Arianna explained while presenting the award. "In the middle of complete chaos, panic, darkness and real danger [she] made them feel safe and loved."
Following the horrific event, "I didn't want this to define me or my kids," Roig-Debellis said, according to Glamour.
She has launched the nonprofit Classes 4 Classes, which lets classes sponsor educational gifts, ranging from field trips to art supplies, for other classes.
Arianna added, "She not only saved their lives, but she sent an inspiring message to the rest of us about the power of love to overcome hatred and fear."
"When you teach kindness, love, and empathy," Roig-DeBellis said, "there is no room for hate."
Read Arianna's full speech below:
Thank you Cindi and Glamour. As a mother I'm particularly honored to be presenting this next award.
Eleven months ago, the nation watched in horror as 20 young children and six brave adults were gunned down at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut.
But in the middle of this horrific act a miracle happened: fifteen first graders survived and are alive today because of the courage, love and devotion of one teacher, Kaitlin Roig-Debellis (ROYG de-bell-iss). When the shooting began, Kaitlin rushed her fifteen students into a tiny, dark bathroom, barricaded the door, and in the middle of complete chaos, panic, darkness and real danger, made them feel safe and loved.
She not only saved their lives, but she sent an inspiring message to the rest of us about the power of love to overcome hatred and fear.
And it's not just what Kaitlin did last December, it's what she's been doing every day since -- teaching love and compassion and the importance of giving back -- that makes her a Woman of the Year. Take a look...
Kaitlin, we have some special guests here to celebrate this special moment with you. Please welcome nine parents of children who were in Kaitlin's first grade class.