Expressing a Nation's Appreciation for the Heroic Staff of Hillsdale High School

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Expressing a Nation's Appreciation for the Heroic Staff of Hillsdale High School



Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Ms. SPEIER. Madam Speaker, every weekday morning, millions of parents send our children off to school, entrusting their care to the teachers, administrators and other professionals who do their best to make school as safe and supportive an environment as possible. Yet we are reminded, far too often, that no one's safety is guaranteed if a disturbed person or group is intent on committing an act of violence.

On August 24th, a former student with his mind set on mayhem entered the campus of San Mateo California's Hillsdale High School with enough weapons and explosive devices to kill or injure hundreds. The remarkable fact that no one was seriously hurt is due entirely to the heroic efforts of the staff who, according to Principal Jeffrey Gilbert, "More ran toward the explosion than away from it."

Student services aide Jana Torres, a district employee since 2001 and known for her strong relationship with students, saw the attacker attempting to start a chainsaw and yelled at him to stop. Instead, he lit a pipe bomb and hurled it at her. Disregarding her own safety, Ms. Torres called for help and jumped over the device to pursue the attacker as the pipe bomb detonated behind her.

Just as a second bomb went off, 12-year teaching veteran Kennet Santana, a favorite among students for his innate ability to inspire and motivate young people, tackled the running assailant before he could ignite more of the home-made bombs he had strapped to his vest.

Coming to Kennet's aid were Principal Gilbert, a former Hillsdale teacher known for his easy-going and patient manner, and counselor Edgardo Canda, another former teacher who has found his calling as a counselor, able to relate to students on many levels. They helped subdue and hold the attacker until police arrived.

Madam Speaker, at that point in time, none of these heroes knew if-- or how many--others were part of this plot or if the bombs strapped to the desperate young man's vest were about to detonate.

Ms. Torres, Mr. Santana, Mr. Gilbert and Mr. Canda have rightly and appropriately been singled out by their community. They, along with the brave officers of the San Mateo Police Department, in particular the first responders--Captain Kevin Raffaelli and Officers Rick Apecechea, Jeff Dellinges and Roberto Gonzalez--deserve our gratitude for their selfless acts of heroism.

So, too, does the entire staff at Hillsdale High School that morning. As Principal Gilbert said, "We're getting a lot of the credit but there were a lot of teachers who basically stood their ground and said we're going to do whatever it takes to protect our kids"

Madam Speaker, our entire nation is eternally grateful for the dedication of these and so many other public education professionals who, every day at schools across this country, take on the awesome responsibility of doing "whatever it takes" to educate, prepare, and protect our children.

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States federal government (see 17 U.S.C. 105).