My heart goes out to the victims, their families and all in our great community who have been touched by the recent tragedy at the Mall in Columbia ("A tragedy of undetermined cause," Jan. 28).

Events such as these bring into sharp focus both the worst and the best of humanity. While we are reeling from this horrific and senseless act of violence, we are inspired and reassured by the prompt, coordinated and effective actions of our local officials and emergency response teams.

As the situation unfolded, the professionalism and compassion of our police force, fire officials and county leaders was on full view for the entire nation to witness. No one could ever be truly prepared to deal with events such as this, yet no one could have handled it better.

The true measure of a community is revealed by how well it handles a crisis. I was touched to hear that local businesses donated food and services to support the many people affected and that some of our school bus drivers transported people to safety. I also am grateful to all of the school system employees who came to work Monday ready to respond to children in need of support.

Children, like adults, react to traumatic situations in many different ways but all need to feel secure in order to learn. Many children were at the Mall in Columbia when the shooting occurred or personally know those that were on the scene. While some parents shielded their younger children from knowledge of the crisis, others heard the upsetting news via television or social media.

On Monday morning, teachers, administrators and school crisis teams were ready with a range of age-appropriate resources and services to reassure students and help them feel safe. Each school reached out to families and staff members to share information and offer support.

I want to extend my personal thanks to Howard County Executive Ken Ulman, Police Chief Bill McMahon and his team, Fire and Rescue Services Chief William Goddard and his team, County Council members and other local officials for their unparalleled leadership in this crisis. I also commend our school administrators and other staff members who continue to support students and families throughout this difficult situation. I am so proud to be a part of the Howard County community.

Renee A. Foose, Ellicott City

The writer is superintendent of the Howard County Public School System.

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