I am rarely at a loss for words. But now? Connecticut, Sandy Hook Elementary School, the perfectly-innocent little children, the teachers who teach and care, a town overturned by senselessness — this leaves me at a loss.
It is not a merry Christmas in Sandy Hook. I think of those parents who sit in their living rooms in front of decorated Christmas trees, possibly with gifts already-wrapped underneath. I feel hurt thinking about dolls that will not be hugged or slept with, bikes that will not be ridden, Legos that will not be put together with daddies, puzzles that will not be assembled, books that will not be read, movies that won’t be watched, new winter jackets that won’t be worn. Cookies and milk set out for Santa will be nearly-impossible to do if there are other children in the families.
Last night at our family Christmas gathering I watched my grandchildren with different eyes — my 14 year-old grandson, his voice now deep, his hair a little longer, looking, smiling, involved with his iPhone, being his polite and loving self, my 13 year-old step-granddaughter (my son’s stepdaughter), who is having great difficulty since the shootings, unable to sleep, this sweet young girl afraid to go back to school, my 11 year-old granddaughter, surprised and thrilled at receiving an American Girl doll for Christmas, her sweet countenance filling the room, my 2 1/2 year-old granddaughter, dancing through the excitement of the evening, the lights, the Christmas tree, the beautifully-wrapped presents, her joy infectious.
I watched my children, too. My daughter is 39, and she works in an elementary school where visitors have to be buzzed in. She works helping to increase children’s reading skills, and they love her. She is creative and task-oriented. My son is a police officer, and I shudder to think that it might have been him to have come upon such a scene as Sandy Hook if, God forbid, this had happened in our small town. I am proud of their contributions, but more importantly, I am grateful that they are safe.
But it did happen in Sandy Hook, and it has happened in other places. We need to step up and do whatever we can to make absolute certain that it will never happen again, anywhere.
I cannot even come close to imagining how the parents of Charlotte and Daniel and Olivia and Josephine and Ana and Dylan and Madeleine and Catherine and Chase and Jesse and James and Grace and Emilie and Jack and Noah and Caroline and Jessica and Avielle and Benjamin and Allison are agonizing.
As a former teacher, I understand the natural desire to protect our students. And that is precisely what Victoria and Mary and Lauren and Anne Marie and Dawn and Rachel were doing.
There are no words.
There are no answers.
There is only pain of the deepest kind. I join my prayers with all the others around the world for the souls of those who have been so cruelly and senselessly taken, and I will join my efforts, whatever they might be, in doing something to stop this. I live near Chicago, where children are killed every day simply because they are in the wrong place at the wrong time or because they get caught in the cross hairs of gang violence or because of a drive-by shooting. This horrific constellation of crimes and evils has grown to epidemic proportions.
Something must be done. Let us not simply give this lip service. Let us remember what six and seven year-old children look like, how they talk, what they like to play with, how they learn to read. Let us make it personal. Let us boldly walk into our school systems and demand meetings with police and other organizations that can help us in our communities.
Let us remember.