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Students return to Rio school where 12 were shot

/ Source: The Associated Press

Hesitantly, with their parents by their side, students returned Monday to the Brazilian public school where a man shot and killed 12 children less than two weeks ago.

There are still four students recovering in hospitals from bullet wounds suffered when Wellington Oliveira opened fire at the Tasso da Silveira public school in Rio de Janeiro on April 7. Two of them are in critical condition. Oliveira shot himself after being cornered by police.

The school's director, Luiz Marduk, said the first days will be spent in therapeutic activities such as painting and poetry. The students will receive individual attention as they resettle into their routine. Teaching will resume when the students are ready, in about three weeks, he said.

"They will be working with poetry books today, and will have the opportunity to select some sentences to be placed on the school's stairway," Marduk said. The goal of the activity would be to "bring some sense of optimism and hope to the students and remind them that these were the feelings that always prevailed in this school."

To prepare for the students' return, volunteers painted the bullet-riddled and bloodstained walls of the school in the working class neighborhood of Realengo. The two classrooms where the greatest number of children were killed were refurbished and will be turned into a library.

City officials who met with professors on Monday morning said the school's approximately 1,000 students will also have health care services and a psychologist available on site.

In spite of the care taken to welcome the students back, many of the kids and their parents found it hard to go back to the place where so many children had lost their lives.

Renata Rocha Tavares lost one of her twin daughters in the shooting; the other is still in the hospital.

"All of the mothers are suffering, I am suffering," she said, crying. "This is the first time I have come to the school because I would get very emotional. They were two little children. My other daughter is horrified because of that sicko."

Videos and texts recently released by Rio de Janeiro's public safety department show Oliveira planned the attack several days, even months, in advance. Photos found in his computer show him pointing a gun at the viewer, then at himself.

Despite the nightmarish violence, Eduardo Felipe Santana, 11, was ready to go back to school and see his friends again, he said. There is "no need to be afraid anymore," he said in a message to other students.

"You can come back, the monster is gone."


Flora Charner, with the Associated Press in Rio de Janeiro, contributed to this report.