Pine View students pay tribute to those who responded to bomb threat at school

ST. GEORGE — More than 1,000 Pine View High School students at an assembly Friday showed their appreciation to the convoy of first responders dispatched to the school last month during a bomb threat.

The student-driven tribute at the assembly started at 8:15 a.m. with police officers and first responders lining the stage of the auditorium.

More than 1,000 students gather for tribute to first responders at Pine View High School, St. George, Utah, April 6, 2018 | Photo by Cody Blowers, St. George News

Their presence was greeted by two standing ovations while students cheered – a tribute to the officers’ efforts when a call for help triggered a rapid response.

More than 50 officers, agents, bomb squad technicians and other first responders descended upon the school March 5 after a backpack emitting smoke was found on the floor of the school’s cafeteria.

Read more: Students being allowed to leave after suspicious package triggers evacuation at Pine View High School

For event organizer, Natalie Huebner, the show of appreciation held a special purpose when she realized “what could have happened that day had so many officers and emergency personnel not shown up.”

“It just felt wrong to not thank them for any of that,” she said.

Pine View High School resource officer Lynn Koester saw the day in a different way.

“The true first responders in this incident were the students, and each recognized something a little bit different, a little bit wrong – and if that hadn’t happened then nothing else would have been in play.”

Officers gather around event organizer, Natalie Huebner during tribute to first responders at Pine View High School, St. George, Utah, April 6, 2018 | Photo courtesy of Carol Huebner, St. George News

The event took place in a setting where a majority of the student body would be gathered, so the decision was made to open the assembly with a tribute to responders, Pine View High School Principal Mike Mees said.

Huebner spoke while large, rectangular posters several feet long with 1,200 hearts attached were brought to the stage. Written on each heart was a message from an individual student or faculty member recognizing the group’s efforts.

Each heart was cut out of paper, distributed, collected and attached to the posters, thanks to the efforts of the student council and others, Mees said.

Preparations for Friday’s assembly began nearly two weeks ago, and Koester said that once Huebner began making arrangements for the event, students became involved very quickly to express “a generous token of appreciation” for the officers.

First responders gather on stage during school assembly at Pine View High School, St. George, Utah, April 6, 2018 | Photo by Cody Blowers, St. George News

“Natalie spearheaded this event, and did all of the legwork herself,” Koester said, “and it was just a great job all the way around.”

Koester worked with the student council and then began contacting various law enforcement agencies involved in the incident.

Mees said it was “a collaborative effort that took almost two weeks to accomplish, and we are so proud of our students and of Natalie, who followed through with the plan which is what we saw here today.”

Part of the tribute Friday recognized the relationship between the students, faculty and the school resource officer, and the role that trust plays in that relationship, Mees said.

“It took some time once SRO Koester arrived, but after working with the kids and getting to know them, it’s a good relationship.”

That was echoed by St. George school resource Sgt. Albert Gilman.

“The students alerted school administrators and police because they feel comfortable with them, so these kids aren’t afraid to go up and talk to them when something is wrong.”

“It is also one of the biggest benefits of having officers in our schools is that they build a relationship with the kids,” Gilman said.

Huebner added that Koester goes through the halls and greets students by name, which is something she said is important.

The communication between the school, students and resource officers was the key to such a rapid, effective response that day, Koester said, and the relationship that the resource officers have with each other is crucial.

For instance, Koester said he contacted Pine View Middle School’s student resource officer Gage Shimbeck right away, knowing that Shimbeck is also a member of the Washington County Bomb Squad.

The student-made posters were distributed to agencies that assisted on that day, including one sent with the Washington County Bomb Squad, while another went with the K-9 handler to Dixie Regional Medical Center, provider of the bomb-sniffing K-9. The third poster was sent with an officer to the St. George Police Department, and the final poster will hang “somewhere important,” Gilman said.

There are many stories outlining what officers do wrong, that are released to the entire world, Huebner said, but there is little recognition when they do “a really good job.”

Posters presented to first responders during tribute held at Pine View High School, St. George, Utah, April 6, 2018 | Photo courtesy of Carol Huebner, St. George News



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