Thonotosassa, Florida -- Students at Terrace Community Middle School held their heads low in quiet remembrance as the names of the 26 students and staff killed in Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut one week ago were read out loud.
The 6th, 7th, and 8th graders may not yet be adults, but they understand the horror of what happened and grieve just as their parents do.
"It's hard not to cry and think about what happened," said 8th grader and SGA president Micaela Torres.
"I'm sad because I love this country so much. I'm Mexican. I came here when I was two," said her classmate, Roberto Rochez.
As each name was read, students released 2,000 white balloons donated by the law firm Sparkman and Sparkman.
Some students shed tears while others watched in silence.
"To think some person could do this to kids and other adults is just a tragedy. I hope they stay strong because I know it's a hard time that they're in," said Torres.
Principal Tahvia Shaw says it's been a tough week at the school. Even though the tragedy took place many miles away, it hit close to home for these kids.
School is where they are supposed to feel most safe.
Her priority has been to reassure her students their safety is her number one concern.
"They connect in a very different way, that you and I may have a hard time understanding because they're kids and they relate to it a little bit differently," said Shaw.
She is encouraging her students to reflect about the tragedy, but also think about how they can honor the 26 who lost their lives at Sandy Hook Elementary.
"I told the students I want them to live their lives in such a way to be honorable for those students who lost their lives," said Shaw.
The students have been signing two banners throughout this week, leaving messages of condolences for the families in Newtown. They plan to send the banners to the grief stricken community. It's a small thing, but something they feel they have in their power to share in the grief and show their support.
"It helps us too, not only them, helps us to think of a way we can help people up there even though we're not with them," said Rochez.