For Shahana Ghosh, a first-grade teacher at PS 24 in Sunset Park, just two blocks from the subway station where Tuesday’s shooting took place, the day started like any other.
After a morning meeting with the other teachers, her students sat down for class at 8:10 am, ready for reading and math lessons. Half an hour later, an announcement came over the public address system: the school would go into “shelter-in-place,” a type of lockdown in which classes continue as usual, but no one is allowed to enter or leave the building.
Around 9 a.m., Ms. Ghosh’s colleague, who was not at school on Tuesday, texted her explaining why: A shooting had occurred at the 36th Street subway station.
“It was very, very difficult today,” Ghosh said. “It was unlike anything I’ve ever tried.”
Because the children in her class are so young, there were no announcements on the news so as not to scare them, and Mrs. Ghosh had to keep a calm face for the rest of the day. When her students began to notice that her phone was ringing off the hook, she kept them busy by announcing playtime.
“I’m trying really hard to keep my composure and not show any of my fear,” Ghosh said. “The kids were playing with Play-Doh at the end of the day and they wanted 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 a mile away from the shooting, also shielded her students from the full story after her school received a shelter-in-place order and told her students it was just a drill. .
“We were all scared,” he said. “We kept it as normal as we could.”
Although Ms. Tang was able to keep her students busy with art lessons and science projects, some of her students noticed that something was wrong. 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 would take longer to get home and that their families, friends, or other relatives might be there to pick them up. Immediately, one of her students asked if there had been a shooting.
“I told the truth, but not the whole truth,” he said. “I said everyone was fine, no one died, because I didn’t want to scare the students.”
“I specifically told my children that I wanted their parents to tell them,” he added.
With all the trains in the area closed after school ended, Ms. Tang ended up taking a ferry home, and Ms. Ghosh asked her cousin for a ride.
Ms. Ghosh, who was trying to unwind from the day’s chaos by preparing dinner, said she started thinking about how she will talk to her first graders about the shooting. She’ll probably focus the conversation on expressing her feelings, she said, and she’ll explain what to do if they find themselves stuck in a situation like this.
“I think we are going to have to have a conversation about who hurt others and why does that happen,” 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 have no answer.”
Ms. Tang, who said she plans to relax with another teacher friend tonight, said she has no idea how she will start talking to her students about the class shooting 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 look,” she said. “I imagine there will be some students who will be absent, because this is very scary.”