Emotional shock is in the air: the horrors in Kosovo; nailbombs in London; the Columbine school massacre in America; and now the death of Jill Dando. We are acutely aware of living in a violent and unpredictable world.
Terrifying events hit the headlines until the media spotlight moves on. But such catastrophes change for ever the lives of those involved. When the violence happens in school, many of these are teachers. During such attacks, teachers may, shockingly, suddenly find that they are as vulnerable as the children they are supposed to protect.
Yet in spite of the sense of helplessness that such acts engender, teachers can and do make a difference. The cool and courageous actions of the staff at Columbine - who had had emergency training only the previous week - surely prevented greater bloodshed.
This is particularly true of David Sanders, the teacher who disregarded his own safety in helping students escape, but was shot and bled to death. Tim Cornwell's account in this week's Friday magazine (page 4), of Mr Sanders' pupils trying desperately to keep him alive, is impossible to read without a lump in the throat - and a renewed appreciation of the profession to which he belonged.