Saturday December 15, 2012

PITTSFIELD -- Bill Berryman spent part of Friday evening watching news of the mass shooting at the Newtown, Conn., elementary school on the TV screens at Patrick's Pub.

Berryman said he was shaken and had a visceral reaction -- given his job -- when he heard the news: He's been a Herberg Middle School social studies teacher for 17 years.

"Our job as teachers is to keep kids safe," Berryman said. "It's scary to me that this happened. I was working all day and didn't get a chance to look at the news or any headlines. And I just felt utter shock when I heard about what happened. I was stunned."

It's a sentiment that has been shared across the Berkshires and throughout the nation. Whether glued to constant updates on cable news networks or online, people across the country also felt Berryman's sense of shock. By early evening on Friday, seven of the top 10 trending topics on Twitter were all related to the shooting.

Michael Rinaldi, owner of Upstreet Barbers on North Street, said the mass shooting was a main concern for his customers throughout the day. In his shop, a row of televisions line the wall above the barber chairs. All day Friday, each television was tuned to CNN, which featured constant updates about the shooting.

"Our customers were visibly upset by this," Rinaldi said. "You could see it on their faces."

While Rinaldi is not a father himself, he said his girlfriend has two children with whom he is very close.


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The thought of a gunman entering what he said should be "one of the safest places for kids" was an unthinkable horror, Rinaldi said.

"I just can't make sense of any of this," Rinaldi said, while watching the TV screen.

News of the tragedy elicited varying reactions.

For one man at Patrick's Pub, who asked not to be named, news of the shooting brought up the larger national debate over gun control. He said the media coverage of this and similar stories paints in broad strokes, bringing into question gun rights, while not zeroing in on the actions of a "specific few crazy people."

"To me, the issue at hand is not gun rights," the man said. "If someone kills someone while driving a car, are you going to outlaw cars? You can't stop crazy. To me, it's about the individual. This tragedy is about what this one man has done."

For Jessica Lamb, owner of Dottie's Cafe in Pittsfield, the main issue at hand was not the politicized debate over gun ownership or the latest breaking news headline. Instead, it is the effect this tragedy will have on children in school.

A mother of a 2-year-old who has another child on the way, Lamb said she can't stop thinking about "little kids in front of a television who have to see and hear about the day's awful tragedy."

Lamb said it was just too much to process.

"It's such an awful story," Lamb said. "It's just devastating."