Many of the nation's teachers are now among the best prepared to handle mass shootings like the one that occurred in a Louisiana movie theater Thursday night, largely because school systems across the country have been training them in how to handle active-shooter situations.
Horrific school shootings, like the one at Sandy Hook Elementary in late 2012, highlighted the need for such training and showed how teachers have displayed great heroism in the face of grave danger: One teacher died at the Connecticut school while shielding her students from a hail of bullets.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, are now praising two Jeanerette High School teachers - Ali Viator Martin and Jena Legnon Meaux - who were among nine wounded when a man began shooting moviegoers in Lafayette, La., killing two and himself. One woman jumped on top of the other to shield her from the gunfire, and Martin, wounded, got herself to a fire alarm and pulled it, sending out the call for help.
Jindal, in a news conference, commended the women for their acts of heroism and said that they likely saved many lives. "A lot of folks in that situation would just be thinking about themselves," Jindal said.
The president of the local teacher's union, Cammie Maturin, has started a GoFundMe page for the two women to help them pay for medical bills. Maturin taught with the pair a few years ago at the high school, and said Martin was always going out of her way to help others. She said she believes the training she and other teachers received helped them stay calm in the midst of the chaos in the movie theater.
"It goes to show you that they didn't panic and did exactly what was taught," Maturin said.
Inette Malveaux, who has taught Louisiana history for a decade at Anderson Middle School and is vice president of the teacher's union, said she has done lockdown drills since she started. When her school goes on lockdown, she instructs students to crouch behind their desks and she then covers windows and locks doors. It becomes like "muscle memory" for teachers, and she believes that's what kicked in when the teachers in the theater reacted.
"It's something that we practice for," she said.
Weingarten, the AFT president, also praised the women, saying their actions "were nothing short of heroic."
On Saturday, Lafayette police thanked the many people providing tips about the gunman, John Russell Houser, 59, as they work to reconstruct his movements before he started shooting.
The two women killed were Mayci Breaux, 21, who was preparing to become a radiologist, Jillian Johnson, 33, who ran boutiques, played ukulele in a band, and planted fruit trees for the homeless.
A memorial sprang up outside one of Johnson's stores, and people were still adding to it Saturday.
Police said that by interviewing victims and witnesses and studying Houser's cellphone records, internet postings and other contacts, they hope to figure out what prompted Houser, a right-wing extremist with a history of erratic behavior and violent threats, to open fire.
"Our intelligence section is still analyzing a lot of that," Lafayette Police Col. Paul Mouton said, adding that many people "feel they have had some sort of contact or run-in with this individual."
An initial report about Houser will likely be released next week, the police spokesman said. By Monday, they expect to remove police tape and return some measure of normalcy to the theater.