This story is not about me, but is about how the events of December 14th, 2012 will forever affect not only me, but all of us in these United States. I got to work on December 14th of 2012, craving my morning coffee as I do most days, but when I sat down at my desk and logged into Twitter, things looked quite different, to say the least.
A friend who is a journalist for a local Connecticut newspaper posted a concerning, but seemingly innocuous tweet.
One shooter is dead at Newtown, Connecticut elementary school, school is now cleared of shooters.
“Thank God”, I thought to myself. “Thank God a shooter went to an elementary school and only shot himself. Think of how horrible it would have been had he shot others, and, God forbid, some students.”
But then the details began to emerge.
First we heard: 1 dead. Only the gunman. Then we heard: 2 dead; the gunman and the school’s principal was killed. But, by the end of the day, all innocence would be destroyed and we would learn that not only did 7 adults die in this senseless massacre, but 20 children died as well…children in kindergarten. 6-year olds; children that had their entire lives yet to live.
As the death toll began to rise on the 14th, I hoped, prayed even, that children wouldn’t be among the dead, but, somewhere inside of me, I knew that wasn’t the case. Turns out, I was right. 27 dead; 6 adults, the gunman, and…20 children. 20. No first dates, no proms, no graduations, no waiting for college acceptance letters with bated breath, no marriages. 20 lives ripped away from their families before they had even had the opportunity to really live. I cried for the families, I cried for the children. I cried for the teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary. I cried for the entire town. Tragedies such as this are always hard to cope with, but this one happened in practically in my back yard.
As details began to emerge about the shooter and his mental health, the political debates also began to emerge. Gun control or the lack thereof; Healthcare, Health Care reform, and the gaping holes in the mental health care system here in the US, the argument of people over the age of 18 being able to decide whether or not they wanted to take their meds; the very issue of civilians being able to purchase assault rifles. Almost instantly, my friends from other countries began to weigh in as well, mostly on gun control issues. All these conversations were important, and needed to be had, but all I could think about were those 20 children who saw the barrel of a gun instead of Christmas presents. Children who had done nothing wrong, but somehow incurred the wrath of this deranged gunman. Children who had to see something that no-one should ever have to see, much less, a child.
I had to shut the door to my office, because, by 4:30pm, I was openly crying at my desk. No, I didn’t know these children or their families personally, no, didn’t have children of my own, but this massacre was unfathomable. How could this happen? Why did this happen?
Many questions are still unanswered. We know the gunman’s mother was a teacher at Sandy Hook Elementary. We know she didn’t make it to work that day, because her son took her life that morning before he traveled to the school to take the lives of many others. We know that the mother was a gun enthusiast, who collected guns and brought her children to the gun range. We know that the gunman had a history of mental illness. We know that he was a child of divorce. We know that he shot and killed himself before the authorities could get to him. What we don’t know, is what motivated his murderous rampage.
In heart wrenching situations such as this, we are often left with more questions than answers, but there are several shining beacons of hope. The city of Sandy Hook came together like never before. They are continuing to hold each other up, and are still working toward getting through this, one step at a time. Churches of various faiths have had their doors open and clergy members were and still are ready and willing to lend a hand, an ear, or a shoulder to cry on. The Hudson Valley Golden Retriever Club even sent several dogs down to help with the healing process, but this process will, no doubt, take months, if not years.
One sign in downtown Sandy Hook read “Love will get us through”. The lives of those affected by the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary will never be the same, that is for certain, but the outpouring of love, support and kindness can at least help restore their faith in humanity.
God bless those affected by this terrible event, and I will continue to keep them in my thoughts and prayers.