A real time, true life horror tale as told on Facebook with a triple twist began with a posting by the police in Danvers, Massachusetts, at 11 p.m. Tuesday.
“Philip Chism, a fourteen year old male who recently relocated to Danvers from Tennessee has been reported missing. He was last seen at the Hollywood Hits Cinema on Endicott St around 6:30 this evening. Anyone with information about his whereabouts is asked to call the Danvers Police.”
The posting brought out what was best in people.
Janet Briggs Lettich: “Philip is my neighbor. He’s a polite and friendly boy. I pray for his safe return.”
Paul Bogrett “Let’s get him home guys!!!”
Micalya Clough: “Even though im not in danvers im happy the police didnt wait 24hrs to put this out and r acting quickly on gettin the word out. Poor kid.”
There was also this posting from another missing kid’s heartsick mom.
MarySusan Williams-Migneault: “Is there reason for the police to think he didn’t just go to the mall after? Or maybe with friends? I have a son that has been missing for about 2 years now. I hope this kid is just hanging out with friends.”
Other decent souls kept posting.
Teri Paradise: “God bless him and his family Please?”
Kelly Jones Barnes: “Praying for this boys safe return. And praying for you MarySusan.”
Sue LeDonne Bresnahan: “Hope he is ok. Hollywood hits area is getting bad.”
Then came what seemed to be the most wonderful news, as if all those prayers had been answered.
Jennifer McNary-Dukeshire: “They found him.”
But moments later there was a twist, and with it the fear that the prayers had been for naught.
Brittani Croteau: “Just watching the news and they said schools are closed because of a homicide...They were showing Danvers high on the news. What is going on???”
Marjorie Peskin:“Is he alive?”
The news brightened again.
Danvers Police Department (Official): “Philip chism has been found safely.”
Jen Rheaume: “I am going to assume he is ok and the homicide was separate.”
Kate Victorine: “then who is dead?”
Christina Silva: “Sad coincidence I’d say. Very sad.”
Jason Carmody: “They probably found a body while searching for Chism.”
That was followed by another twist.
Caitlin Simbajon: “He may be the suspect they think!”
Jennifer Serino: “Search for missing teen turns into a homicide investigation??”
And yet another twist.
Krista Mackey: “Rumored female teacher dead. Kid in custody.”
Katherine Doyle: “The news says there was/has been a homicide in Danvers High School.”
Anny Wichelocal: “Yap! He is alive...but it looks like he killed the teacher.”
Kimberly Anne Doucette: “A 24 year old teacher was found dead in the woods around Danvers high school a 14 year old is in custody for the murder.”
The teacher was Colleen Ritzer, and she had been reported missing around the same time as the teen Tuesday night, after she failed to return home and did not answer repeated calls to her cell phone. The police subsequently searched Danvers High School and found blood in a second-floor bathroom.
Some of the school’s 130 surveillance cameras captured a teen who looks very much like Chism pushing a blue recycling bin from the bathroom and out of the school in the direction of the wooded patch where Ritzer’s body was discovered. Chism was found walking along Route 1 and was brought into court on Wednesday, where he pleaded not guilty to charges of assaulting Ritzer and then stabbing her to death.
“He’s only 14,” his lawyer told the judge.
Chism was new to the school, but he is said to have already made friends and was the leading scorer on the junior varsity soccer team. He did not seem to be as manifestly troubled as the 12-year-old who arrived with a 9mm pistol at the Sparks Middle School in Sparks, Nevada, on Monday. The youngster asked fellow students, “Why are you laughing at me?...You ruined my life, now I’m going to ruin yours” before shooting two fellow seventh-graders and a math teacher who heroically sought to convince him to lower his weapon. The young gunman then took his own life.
The hero teacher was 45-year-old Mike Landsberry. His death on Monday was followed by Ritzer’s on Tuesday, making us a country where two math teachers were murdered in school by students in as many days. And they were both teachers in the fullest, finest sense.
Whatever their differences in age, gender, location, and the exact circumstances of their deaths, the two murdered teachers were remarkably alike in spirit. Ritzer could have been speaking about Landsberry as well as herself with the one-line bio she posted atop her Twitter page.
“Math teacher often too excited about the topics I’m teaching.”
The spirit of a true teacher also shone in her tweets as @msritzermath.
September 4: “Hope everyone enjoyed their first day!! Fun seeing you all!”
September 8: “Full school week ahead. That can only mean one thing: lots of math fun :)”
One student tweeted at Ritzer on September 11: “I just don’t get this math homework.” She tweeted back, “Math is never bad!”
Her subsequent tweets to her students offered encouragement such as all kids need.
September 29: “You can do it :)”
October 1: “Big moments in geometry class this week...we have completed our first proofs!”
Back on September 11, she also had tweeted to the world beyond the classroom, about the innocents who died on 9/11 and their families, as well as the first responders:
“Always thinking of the innocent victims of 9/11 and the loved ones left behind who live in their light every day. Thoughts also for police/fire departments and medical staff for their heroic efforts.”
Similar sentiments had prompted Landsberry to volunteer for deployment to Afghanistan with the Nevada Air National Guard, only to return home and be killed by a youngster born the same year as 9/11.
Even before his final act of heroism, Landsberry proved in the classroom that the spirit of a true patriot and that of a great teacher spring from the same place in the heart. Ritzer demonstrated an equally gifted heart when she tweeted at one moment on September 11 that math is never bad and at another that the loved ones of the murdered innocents live in their light every day.
We now live in Ritzer’s light. She leaves us with some advice that she tweeted on October 5, a bit of teacherly wisdom that Landsberry would surely endorse:
“Find something good in every day :)”