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Sparks MS says goodbye to its 'hero'
by Garrett E. Valenzuela
Oct 24, 2013 | 1556 views | 1 1 comments | 24 24 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tribune photo by Garrett Valenzuela -- Michael Landsberry, a teacher at Sparks Middle School who was shot and killed Monday, was honored Thursday afternoon at the school's gymnasium. Students displayed posters and tokens of memory complimenting him as their Batman.
Tribune photo by Garrett Valenzuela -- Michael Landsberry, a teacher at Sparks Middle School who was shot and killed Monday, was honored Thursday afternoon at the school's gymnasium. Students displayed posters and tokens of memory complimenting him as their Batman.
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Tribune photo by Garrett Valenzuela -- Posters and inspirational messages filled the Sparks Middle School gym Thursday afternoon in honor of the fallen hero.
Tribune photo by Garrett Valenzuela -- Posters and inspirational messages filled the Sparks Middle School gym Thursday afternoon in honor of the fallen hero.
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Tribune photo by Garrett Valenzuela -- A U.S. Navy medal was placed at the foot of the school's outdoor marquee honoring Landsberry's heroism.
Tribune photo by Garrett Valenzuela -- A U.S. Navy medal was placed at the foot of the school's outdoor marquee honoring Landsberry's heroism.
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Tribune photo by Garrett Valenzuela -- Many students took to unique forms of expression Thursday as they coped with the loss of their teacher.
Tribune photo by Garrett Valenzuela -- Many students took to unique forms of expression Thursday as they coped with the loss of their teacher.
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Tribune photo by Garrett Valenzuela -- Support came from across city lines as schools in Reno reached out to Sparks Middle School to share their prayers.
Tribune photo by Garrett Valenzuela -- Support came from across city lines as schools in Reno reached out to Sparks Middle School to share their prayers.
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Tears can be expected at a memorial for a loved one, and there is no doubt plenty were shed Thursday afternoon inside the gym at Sparks Middle School where nearly 700 people gathered in remembrance of teacher Michael Landsberry. But the teacher’s memory and spirit definitely made it difficult as the upbeat “Batman” theme song accompanied a photo slideshow of his classroom follies, time in the military and life at home.

The Dark Knight’s winged symbol was drawn or painted on nearly every poster in the school’s gymnasium as the students, staff and families of Sparks Middle School paid tribute to their fallen hero, their Batman.

“Something that you proved to us is you don’t need to wear a cape to be a hero. Thank you for saving us,” one student wrote.

Another poster read, “You once said ‘I’ll die doing something I love.’ So not only did you die serving your country, but you died saving and protecting the students that love you.”

Katherine Louden, director of counseling for the Washoe County School District, said staff members from Sparks Middle School met at the school Wednesday along with the trauma intervention program, the Crisis Call Center and many other services. Forty counselors were at the school Thursday for the memorial, providing any professional help for families and staff members.

“The students had activities they could do today, which is a lot of what you are seeing on the walls,” Louden said of the memorial. “We had things for them to help them go through the grief and fear they are feeling. Every child and every person who deals with a loss responds differently to a wide variety of services.

“We saw today the kids were really working as a team, connecting with one another, embracing their teachers and several of them did utilize the counseling in place. We will also be in contact over the next several days with families who wanted support and background services.”

Washoe County School District Police Chief Mike Mieras said Sparks Middle would return to school Monday with a few extra officers in the area “for the comforting of the students and parents coming in.” He added that counseling staff would be on hand for those who could not make it to the ceremony and for any parents who have questions.

“This is a family. You have to understand that,” Mieras said of Sparks Middle School. “These students spend over half their day at school with these individuals, and that is really what today was all about.

“The kids really amaze me,” Mieras said. “They came in here and there were some students grieving and some who reached out and helped students and even helped staff. It is truly amazing how students can be like that and bounce back.”

Mieras noted the rallying of the community, bringing strong emotional response to WCSD personnel, including himself when a U.S. Navy Medal for Meritorious Service was placed at the foot of the school’s marquee with a note attached saying, “You deserve this medal in my book.”

“It tears my heart to see that sort of thing,” he said. “It’s heart-breaking. It’s truly amazing that this individual gave up his war medal for Mr. Landsberry.”

Louden said the district's counseling department sought federal advice from professionals who have handled similar situations before bringing the students and staff into the school Thursday. She said it was an important part of the grieving process for the students to return to their school for a quiet moment of reflection.

“It is important for the kids to come into the building,” she said. “They want to come in, see it, get their belongings back, walk around and talk with their teachers. That is something we want to make sure we provide.”

Another candlelight vigil will be held Friday at 6 p.m. at the west peninsula of the Sparks Marina as part of a collaboration between the WCSD and the City of Sparks. People are encouraged to bring their own candles as only a limited amount will be provided.
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Tommy S
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October 25, 2013
Semper Fi, my Friend. You are a True American Hero! You will be Never Forgotten, and Always Remembered.
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