ACUSHNET — Students at the Albert Ford Middle School remembered a day exactly 25 years ago Saturday when a principal wrestled a shotgun away from an intruder, who had just killed the school nurse.
About 480 students, from fifth to eighth grade, gathered outside the Middle Road school and raised the blue dove of peace and U.S. flags in honor of the heroic actions of John A. Tavares.
In 2013, the school library was named after Tavares for his service as an educator and his courage that day.
On April 14, 1993, David Taber burned down his father's house on Lake Street in Acushnet and then barged into the school, armed with a shotgun, and kidnapped and threatened Tavares and librarian Alicea Olivier before shooting and killing nurse Carole Day. Tavares wrestled the gun from Taber, and other staff held Taber down and called police.
Chris Saulnier, an eighth-grade science teacher who organized Friday's event, said the hope is that students will come out of the school, look at the flag and think or say to themselves, "I'm in a safe place and I'll be taken care of," he said. Saulnier was a sophomore at New Bedford High School when the killing happened.
"There were so many here who were heroes and who did what they did to protect students," he said.
The peace flag symbolizes "peace, safety and security," he said. "When I look at it, I think it means that the community is committed to the protection of the students."
The students celebrated ordinary people who became heroes in 1993. The school stands as one, dedicated to peace, because of the heroic actions of so many educators 25 years ago "just to save us," said Christopher Foster, an eighth-grader.
The blue in the peace flag stands as memorial to wisdom and trust, said Cassidy Brun, an eighth-grader and the second student speaker.
Matthew Tripp and Aaron Palhota, sixth-graders who are also Boy Scouts, raised the flags and then lowered them to half-staff in honor of Officer Sean Gannon, the Yarmouth officer, New Bedford native and Bishop Stang High School graduate, who was killed Thursday in the line of duty.
Michelle Silvia, the school's principal, said the event was planned for last month as part of the National Walkout Day, but weather forced its cancellation twice and when it was rescheduled to Friday it just happened to "coincide" with the tragedy at the school 25 years ago.
While the ceremony was uplifting, it was also sad, especially for the retirees who attended the event and knew Day well. "Bittersweet," said Cynthia Stone, who taught at the Acushnet Elementary School and retired in 2002. "She was such a wonderful lady. All of our hearts were broken.
"She was such a sweet lady. We loved her. I don't think anyone will be the same," Stone said.
Taber, 67, who was released from prison in 2015 after serving 22 years, was arrested again last year for assaulting his 88-year-old father with whom he lived. He is being held without bail after his indictment on charges of assault and battery on a disabled person over 60; assault and battery on a household member; witness intimidation; neglect operation of a motor vehicle; carrying a dangerous weapon; assault and battery with a dangerous weapon; malicious damage to a motor vehicle; and resisting arrest, according to Gregg Miliote, a spokesman for Bristol County District Attorney Thomas M. Quinn III.
His next court date is April 26 for his final pre-trial hearing on the charges, Miliote said.
Follow Curt Brown on Twitter @CurtBrown_SCT.
This story was amended on April 13, 2018 to correct the date of the shooting and the school name.