For Shahana Ghosh, a first-grade teacher at P.S. 24 in Sunset Park, just two blocks from the subway station where Tuesday’s shooting took place, the day began like any other.
After a morning meeting with the other teachers, her students sat down for class at 8:10 a.m., ready to take on reading and math lessons. Half an hour later, an announcement came over the P.A. system: The school was going into “shelter in place” — a type of lockdown where classes continue as usual, but no one can enter or leave the building.
Around 9 a.m., Ms. Ghosh’s colleague, who was not at the school on Tuesday, texted her explaining why: A shooting had taken place at the 36th Street subway station.
“It was very, very difficult today,” Ms. Ghosh said. “It was unlike anything I’ve dealt with.”
Because the children in her class are so young, no announcements about the news were made so as not to scare them, and Ms. Ghosh had to put on a calm face for the rest of the day. When her students started to notice her phone was beeping nonstop, she kept them busy by announcing play time.
“I’m trying really hard to keep it together and not show any of my fear,” Ms. Ghosh said. “The kids were playing with Play-Doh at the end of the day and wanting to show me the ice cream they made, and I was like, ‘I’m texting your mom and trying to make sure she can pick you up, but thanks!’”
Annie Tang, a fourth- and fifth-grade teacher at a school about a mile away from the shooting, also shielded her students from the full story after their school got a shelter-in-place order, telling her students it was just a drill.
“We were all freaked out,” she said. “We kept it as normal as we possibly could.”
Though Ms. Tang was able to keep her students occupied with art lessons and science projects, some of her students noticed something was off. Some questioned why they couldn’t go outside for recess on a sunny day, and why a lockdown drill would last several hours.
At the end of the day, Ms. Tang warned her students that it might take longer for them to get home, and that their families, friends or other relatives might be there to pick them up. Immediately, one of her students asked her if there had been a shooting.
“I told the truth, but not the whole truth,” she said. “I said everyone was OK, no one died, because I didn’t want to freak out the students.”
“I told my kids specifically that I wanted their parents to tell them,” she added.
With all the trains in the area shut down after school let out, Ms. Tang ended up taking a ferry home, and Ms. Ghosh asked her cousin to drive her.
Ms. Ghosh, who was trying to unwind from the chaos of the day by cooking dinner, said she has started to think about how she will talk to her first graders about the shooting. She will probably focus the conversation on expressing their feelings, she said, and explaining what to do if they find themselves caught in a situation like this.
“I think we’re going to have to have a conversation about who hurt others and why that happens,” Ms. Ghosh said. “That’s a big question these kids have all the time: ‘Why did they do that?’ Which is the most difficult question of all, because we don’t have an answer.”
Ms. Tang, who said she plans to decompress with another teacher friend tonight, said she has no idea how she will begin to talk to her students about the shooting in class tomorrow — but she knows her students will ask her questions. Tomorrow, she added, is supposed to be Picture Day.
“We’re supposed to look happy, and I’m not sure how that’s going to be,” she said. “I imagine there will be some students who are absent, because this is really scary.”