Robert Runcie had just handed the keys for a brand new Toyota Camry to Tammy Freeman, his school district’s Teacher of the Year.
“Congratulations Tammy!!!,” he wrote on Twitter.
And then he got the news. A shooting had taken place six miles away at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
And just like that, the Broward County Schools Superintendent’s day veered from triumph to tragedy.
“We were celebrating our teachers, our schools,” said Runcie, who learned of the shooting as he was leaving Monarch High School in his car.
“Today has been a day of enormous mountains and valleys,” he said. “There are numerous fatalities. It’s a horrific situation. It’s just a horrible day for us.”
Runcie said the nation’s sixth-largest school district was blindsided by the shooting.
“We didn’t have any warnings, there weren’t any phone calls or threats, that we know of, that were made,” he told reporters.
“It’s a day you pray every day … that we will never have to see. It is in front of us and I ask the community for your prayers, your support for these children and their families. We’re going to do whatever we can to come together as a community to pull through this, and we will.”
Runcie said it’s important the Broward schools community not live in a world built on fear while also making sure the best safety measures are in place.
“Mental health issues in this country are growing, and they’re a big challenge,” he said, adding that they need to be addressed in school systems and in society at large so shootings like this don’t happen.
Every high school in Broward County is staffed with school resource officers, Runcie said.
When a reporter asked him if Wednesday’s school shooting is the deadliest in Broward’s history, he replied, “That’s what it appears to be.”
Several hours after his jubilant Teacher of the Year tweet, Runcie was back on Twitter with a somber message.
“Today we (are) experiencing the worst of humanity as an unspeakable tragedy has hit our @browardschools family …” he said. “We are working with law enforcement as we pray for our babies and families.”