PERRYVILLE, Md. - A sense of uneasiness hung over every parent as they sent their students back to class after the mass shooting in Connecticut.
"It was easy to relate. I think the whole country related to the events that happened at Sandy Hooke and we were just devastated as was the nation," said Cecil County Sheriff’s Deputy Frankie Stephens who felt he had to do something, "I have three girls. I have a seven year old, a five year old and a four year old. I would do anything for them, to protect them as would a majority of parents."
So Deputy Stephens loaded up his eldest daughter, Ava, in his squad car and decided to drive her to Perryville Elementary School, himself.
Once he arrived at the school, he asked the principal if she would mind if he stood watch.
"I told her, 'I'll just sit in my squad car outside the school for a couple of hours. It's my day off so it's the least I could do. So I did that in then she thought it may be a good idea to put my uniform on.
So I did and then I went back to school and had lunch with Ava's class, so..."
Deputy Stephen’s wife, Christie, who had shared in the anguish over the shooting that weekend, was moved by his gesture.
"He called me throughout the day and said, 'I'm still sitting in the parking lot. I'm going to sit here for a while and then I may have lunch with her,' and I just thought that was really sweet,” said Christie, “You know, as a mom, I was like, 'Oh, this is really sweet,' and I was grateful for her that she was able to have that and I was just proud of my husband. So I threw it on my Facebook page."
The response from her friends was almost immediate and after posting it on a national talk show host’s page, it went viral.
"I check recently and it's over a million likes and it's just mind blowing to me, and I've received messages. I've received hundreds of Facebook messages from people from all over the world just thanking us."
But perhaps no one liked the deputy’s actions more than his daughter and her classmates..
"I like when my Dad goes to school and all the kids think that's really cool to have a dad that comes with you to lunch that's a police officer," said Ava.
"Do they feel safer?"
The principal at Perryville Elementary School, Lisa Lowe, applauds the deputy’s actions and says there has been an outpouring of support from other parents as well, including police officers, firefighters and military personnel from the Aberdeen Proving Ground.
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