A kindergarten teacher in northern Mexico was honored Monday for her courage after a video showed her calmly leading children through a duck-and-cover drill as gunfire rattled outside their school.
A certificate presented by the governor of the northern state of Nuevo Leon said teacher Martha Rivera Alanis showed "outstanding civic courage" in her steady performance during the Friday gunfight in the northern industrial hub of Monterrey.
Rivera Alanis proudly held up the framed certificate outside the office of Gov. Rodrigo Medina de la Cruz and said she wasn't concerned with fame — only the safety of her 5- and 6-year-old students.
"Of course, I was afraid, but I tell you, my kids get me through it," she said following the private ceremony.
Rivera Alanis herself used her cell phone to tape the video, in which she is heard coaxing the 15 children to lie flat on the floor.
"No, my love, nothing is going to happen, just put your little face on the floor," Rivera Alanis is heard telling one worried little girl.
Then, loud bursts of gunfire break out on the video, what local paramedics later confirmed was the sound of gunmen killing five people at a taxi stand about a block from the school.
Monterrey has been plagued by a wave of drug-related violence, in which gangs linked to drug cartels have staged gunfights, blocked streets and opened fire on civilians.
In the video, the teacher tries to take the kids' minds off the gunfire, leading them in a song popularized by the children's show "Barney & Friends." The song talks about the sky raining candy — not the bullets that were piercing the air that day.
"If the rain drops were chocolate, I would love to be there, opening my mouth to taste them," the class sang as they hugged the floor at the Alfonso Reyes school.
"My only thought was to take their minds off that noise," she told reporters Monday. "So I thought of that song."
Rivera Alanis, 33, said she posted the video to her Twitter account, and someone who found it there posted it to the website YouTube.
A mother of two children, Rivera Alanis said her young students had set an example for the rest of the city.
"I'm going to carry on, of course it is possible," she said. "If my 5- and 6-year-olds can do it, it is up to the rest of us to carry on."
Rivera Alanis' school and those in several Mexican cities that have been hit by drug violence have held emergency drills in the past to instruct teachers and students what to do in case of gunfire. Such violence has killed more than 35,000 people across Mexico over the past four years.
"We do drills constantly, because the area where we are is a high-risk zone," she said, adding that the kids "behaved in the way we had practiced."