(Fairport, N.Y.) – Principal Dave Paddock has work to do.
It’s the kind of work he never imagined he’d have to perform, planning calling hours for his students.
“I sat in the staff meeting and said guys, we've never done this before, but I know we can do it and we will do it,” he said.
Calling hours for four of the five girls killed in Tuesday’s crash will be held at the school.
“We're planning for all the logistics, and also, what we can provide for the families. We expect thousands of people here Sunday. Everything from planning for parking, areas where families can relax for a little bit, traffic control, whatever else in getting ready for Sunday.”
When tragedy struck, Paddock emerged as a leader. He is comforting students, parents, an entire community. He is guiding everyone through their grief.
“I'm a principal because I love teenagers and kids, and the kids here are like my own,” he said, his eyes welling with tears. “So when something like that happens and you're the parent, you would step up and do whatever it takes.”
Students immediately knew where to turn. In the wee hours of Wednesday morning, they gathered at the school and watched the sun come up. Paddock was there with them, and has been by their side ever since.
“The sadness just seeps into you as more and more kids fall into your arms, need your support. It's tough,” he said.
He hasn’t given himself time to grieve. Paddock was especially close to two of the victims, Bailey Goodman and Hannah Congdon.
“That's just going to have to come later. I think my role right now as building principal is to help kids and help people get through this, and people are helping me too,” he said.
Paddock grew up in Fairport. He returned to lead his alma mater 12 years ago.
He dearly loves his job, but not this part.
“Yesterday without a doubt was the most difficult day of my career, and I would say the most difficult day of my life,” he said.