JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - It's hard to believe it's been a year already.
Students at the Episcopal School of Jacksonville remembered their late head of school Dale Regan at a memorial Wednesday, just a year after she was murdered when a disgruntled Spanish teacher barged into her office and shot her with an AK-47 before turning the gun on himself. Regan, 63, had been at the Episcopal School for 34 years.
Students had a half day of school and gathered at 10 a.m. for a memorial service and to dedicate the Dale D. Regan Plaza at the Great Oak, a wooden deck built around the tree with walkways connecting to buildings that will serve as a quiet place for reflection and study as well as a tribute to the woman who spent seven years as the head of school. Regan loved the Great Oak and it was a special place for her and her sons to spend time. Her office has also since been converted into a physics lab in her honor.
Those who knew her told tales of Dale's compassion and generosity, no matter what the situation. One of her sons compared himself to the boy in Shel Silverstein's poem "The Giving Tree".
"Because I am the boy who loved the tree very much...and this plaza makes me happy. I love you, mom," John Regan said, adding that he hopes the current and future generations of Episcopal would see the Great Oak and the plaza surrounding it as his mother's living legacy.
Her other son, Duke, says his mother only wanted to teach at one school: Episcopal.
"This school has been every bit a part of my family for every day since then and will hopefully be for many more to come," he said.
Others, like state attorney Angela Corey, knew her primarily as an educator and a teacher. Corey, who was a student of Regan's when she taught at Englewood High School, says she had very high standards for her students, but taught with passion and humor, and inspired her students to live up to those expectations.
"Under her tutelage, we discovered gifts we did not know we had. It is no coincidence that more than one of us has commented that Dale saw more potential in us than we could see in ourselves."
For a year that some believed would mark the end of the world, 2012 will undoubtedly be remembered, at least in part, for the numerous tragedies that struck communities all over the country. A California college, a Sikh temple and then a spa in Wisconsin, a movie theater in Colorado, and an elementary school in Connecticut all fell victim to gun violence and took turns on the national stage as everyone continued to wonder when the madness would finally end.
But before anyone could begin to fathom that something like Aurora or Newtown could possibly happen, there was Episcopal. And while some of those other events may have garnered more national attention than the shooting at Episcopal did, it doesn't make the day any less poignant for members of the Episcopal family.
Regan was in her office in a meeting the morning of March 6, 2012 when Shane Schumerth, 28, burst through the door with the rifle that he'd brought onto campus in a guitar case and shot Regan, then himself. Regan had fired Schumerth that morning for failing to meet requirements and some attendance issues. Schumerth left campus, returned with the semi-automatic rifle, similar in appearance to an AK-47; and that he'd purchased at a gun show about a month before the murder-suicide.
The Dale D. Regan Memorial Fund is still accepting donations. Click here if you'd like to donate.