Kyle Mangieri loves his job. This is the first year the 27 year old has been teaching social studies to seventh graders in Fairfield, Connecticut, full-time. He joins teachers and students across the country who head back to school Monday, three days after the Sandy Hook shooting in Connecticut. It won’t be easy for anyone: parents, children, school administrators. But for Mangieri, it will mean talking about what happened just a few hundred feet from his home.
On Friday, he was in his classroom in Fairfield, about half-an-hour from Newtown, when he found out about the shooting at Sandy Hook elementary school. As details trickled out all day, he started to lose his focus.
"At 12:30 when I had a break I looked at my phone again and I had a bunch of missed texts," said Mangieri.
Finally, he told his principal where he lived and said he needed to leave.
While Mangieri teaches in Fairfield, he lives in Sandy Hook, a village in the town of Newtown, right at the base of the hill that leads up to Sandy Hook Elementary School.
When he got home, he saw frantic parents rushing up that hill to the school. Many walked back with their children, often in tears. Others returned alone.
"They looked like zombies," Mangieri explained. "They literally looked like they’d been given the worst news of their life."
On Sunday, across from his front porch, police officers were directing traffic at the intersection. The road to the school is still blocked off. But a steady stream of mourners and media go back and forth from a makeshift memorial at the school’s entrance. The school itself is still a closed crime scene.
Mangieri made a banner that hangs from his window that says “God Bless Sandy Hook." His family also turned the front yard over to a church group so its members could set up a display in Christmas lights that reads: FAITH HOPE and LOVE.
His father, Chris, came to town yesterday so they could watch the Giants football game at a local bar, and get a bit of a reprieve.
But Mangieri senior mainly just wanted to hang out with his son.
"I’m a Dad," he said as his eyes started to well. "I remember him and his sister being in school and if this ever happened when they were there, I don’t know what I would have done. The panic would have been ridiculous."
On Monday, Mangieri will leave his home in Sandy Hook and head back to his Fairfield classroom. His superintendent sent out an email over the weekend telling teachers--things will be a little different.
He has to go to school extra early so teachers can meet first with guidance counselors. Then, all the teachers will be positioned at the doors to meet the students.
"Once school begins and all the students are in, every single door will be locked," Mangieri said. "That was never the case before."
His class is currently studying geography. But Mangieri plans to set that aside tomorrow. His students know where he lives. And he knows they’ll have questions.