The tragic deaths of 26 schoolchildren and adults weighs heavily on the heart of Steve Canady.
"Those are not just their children," Canady said Monday, his voice becoming hoarse with emotion. "It's inconceivable."
Canady says the senseless shooting is a concern for people everywhere, because it could have happened anywhere. A father and grandfather, Canady comes across as genuine, sincere, and heartbroken. He's exactly the man you want in charge of security at your child's school district.
"It's my job to do the worrying," Canady said. "And I do a lot of worrying."
For nearly 40 years, it's been Canady's job to serve and protect; he worked for 22 years as a police officer in North Little Rock, and spent the last 17 as security director for the North Little Rock District.
Canady says a lot has changed in schools since 1995.
"Then, my job was basically to make sure we didn't have a lot of car break-ins," Canady said.
Fast forward to Monday at North Little Rock High School, where Canady was outside pulling on doors to make sure they were locked.
"Excellent," he said on finding the doors secure.
It's not just locked doors that differentiate today's schools from those of just 15 years ago. Schools like North Little Rock require visitors check in at the front office, present identification, and wear name badges. Even the students are required to wear ID on a lanyard at all times.
There's also campus supervisors (security guards), resource officers (police, or deputies), and surveillance cameras (Canady says their location and operation are tightly guarded secrets).
But gone are the open public school campuses of yesteryear.
"Today we can't be that way," Canady said. "We have to look at every person who walks through our front door as a possible threat."
But even in this culture of heightened awareness, Canady says the schools are nowhere near where he'd like them to be, but admits the security upgrades he has in mind would cost hundreds of millions of dollars. Extreme? Maybe, but no different than music teachers who dream of new instruments, coaches pushing for expanded stadiums, and science teachers using slides instead of taking field trips to state parks.
But Canady doesn't have an unlimited budget. So he worries.
"It's my job to do the worrying. And I do a lot of worrying," Canady said.
Worried about potential threats. Worried about evacuation plans. Worried about the safety of the children with whom he's been entrusted.
"Most of us are first and foremost parents," Canady said. "And if not, grandparents. We love our children. Every child."
And like big people are supposed to do, Canady worries so the kids don't have to. And parents can take kiss those little faces on the way to school every morning because they know their children will be in good hands- thanks to Canady and all the teachers, administrators, janitors, bus drivers and other school employees who treat the kids like their own.
"We are taking care of their children," Canady said "And value them as much as they do." There's a pause as Canady voice and countenance take on greater intensity and emotion. "Every child in that school is my child. And that's the way I feel."