From our special correspondent
Even the sky of Saint-Jean-de-Luz is in mourning. And with him, this Thursday, February 23, the whole Basque city is mourning the tragic death of Agnès Lassalle, the Spanish teacher murdered the day before by a student from Saint-Thomas-d’Aquin high school. In pouring rain, the first students arrive around 9 a.m. in front of the establishment, very often with a yellow rose or a small bouquet in their hands. “We’re sad, it’s horrible, we don’t understand,” said Ainhoa simply, helplessly interpreting a general feeling.
Pupils arrive on foot in clusters or are dropped off by car by a parent and rush into the establishment. In front of the gate, a mother tenderly hugs her schoolgirl daughter before leaving her. The morning is devoted to discussions with their main teacher and a second teacher. Psychologists and doctors are present to accompany those who wish. Young people who are more direct witnesses of the facts are not present because they are the subject of special care.
Arrived discreetly earlier – the instruction of the rector’s crisis unit was to avoid any public expression before Friday – the team of teachers and other staff are present in full. “Everyone is there, even those who don’t have class,” notes Vincent Destais, diocesan director of Catholic education in Bayonne. He underlines the great “dignity” of professionals in the face of the tragedy, while the subject of school safety is already fueling public controversy. “I feel a real educational community united by bonds of brotherhood, it’s not an empty word,” insists the manager. The 52-year-old teacher, who had been in the job since 1997, was a high school figure, unanimously recognized for her commitment. Ainhoa, a pupil in first, had had her as a teacher in fourth class and salutes the memory of a “good” teacher.
The Saint-Thomas-d’Aquin high school is a quiet and renowned establishment (100% of final year students had their baccalaureate last year, 91% with honors). There is a climate of benevolence between the educational team and the schoolchildren, report the students and elders of Saint-Thomas-d’Aquin who express their amazement on social networks and the media.
On Wednesday evening, the Luzian Catholic community celebrated Ashes at the Saint-Jean-Baptiste church. At the end of the office, on the forecourt, a mother with her three children, all schooled in Saint-Thomas-d’Aquin, still in shock. The youngest was in the class next to the one where the tragedy took place. The scenario seems more or less known (see opposite): at 9.45 a.m., the attacker would have got up calmly, to go and lock the front door, then would have turned towards Agnès Lassalle, on the board, and would have planted her a long kitchen knife in the chest. “The students, who had class in half-groups, suddenly arrived in our room which communicates”, explains the teenager of second. A movement of panic ensued, and it was two teachers who convinced the designated author to drop his weapon, before the rapid arrival of the emergency services and the police. The older sister, who is in first, had had Agnès Lassalle as a teacher last year and also testifies to an excellent professional. The family is like the whole community, stunned.
“We are all overwhelmed, flabbergasted and filled with immense emotion,” said Brigitte Caulier, president of the Saint-Thomas-d’Aquin parents’ association, in the evening. Thursday afternoon, still out of sight, all the students were gathered for a first collective moment of meditation while, across the country, high school students who have resumed classes observed a minute of silence.
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