Rachel Valles woke up one Monday morning with a sinking feeling in her stomach. A sick feeling that had kept her up most of the night. The night before she sent her son, Ethan, to her sister's house an hour away and thought she must have made the wrong decision. But that one choice could have saved his life.
That same morning, 53-year-old Cedric Anderson went to Ethan's elementary school to drop off something for his estranged wife who was a teacher for children with special needs.
Anderson walked into the San Bernardino school and followed sign-in protocol, but once he got to his wife's classroom, he shot and killed her without saying a word. He then turned the gun on himself and committed suicide.
A nine-year-old male student, whose name has not been released, was injured during the attack and is now in stable condition. Eight-year-old student Jonathan Martinez was shot and later passed away. A GoFundMe page has been set up to raise money for his funeral.
Ethan was one of Smith's students, and when his mother heard the news, she told FamilyShare she almost collapsed with shock.
"It was just like a blow to the chest," Valles said in another interview. "I thank God that he wasn't there."
There's no way to tell what could have happened if Ethan went to school that day, but Valles is grateful her child is safe.
"Ethan should have been in class today but it was God who had a different path for him," she shared on Facebook. "I am far beyond blessed!"
One 9-year-old student, Marissa Perez, still had blood on her sweatshirt as she was reunited with her mom.
Elizabeth Barajas tried to comfort her frightened daughter. "I don't know what to tell her," she said as she held her daughter tightly and sobbed.
The threat is gone, but like many parents, Barajas is worried about how this traumatizing experience will impact her daughter.
"They can't just tell us your kids are fine," she said. "Obviously my kid is not fine. She witnessed what happened to her teacher and the other students…"
The school district superintendent, Dale Marsden, addressed this overwhelming concern from parents and urged them to be there for their children. "Be willing to listen to their story," he said. "and be willing to listen to their story multiple times."
If your child or someone you know is coping with distress following a shooting, the American Psychological Association suggests you do these things:
Address your child's concerns
Make your home a safe place
Watch for signs of fear or stress
Take breaks from the news
Take care of yourself so you can care for your child
Grieving community members, parents, students and teachers gathered together the evening of the shooting to honor the victims and pray for the injured student.
Valles and her son came to show their respects. "I'll miss them," Ethan said of his teacher and friend.
Valles remembers Smith as a teacher that went above and beyond for her son, Ethan. "He would come home excited, grabbed a book and started reading to me," Smith told Familyshare. "I was almost in tears!"
Smith was a huge blessing in her and her son's lives, she told FamilyShare.
"Words can't explain how heartbroken I am," Valles said about Smith. "You helped Ethan reach his reading goal [and] you always had high expectations for him."
Many schools have safety protocols for fires, storms, shootings and other emergencies. Call your local school district to find out what their procedures are, and make sure your child knows those rules so they can be prepared in case of an emergency. For other tips on keeping your child safe at school, visit Scholastic.com.