Today is National Blogging Remembrance Day in honor of those who lost their lives in Friday’s horrific tragedy that unfolded in the small town of Newtown, Connecticut. It didn’t take an official Remembrance Day to compel me to write something about what happened, instead of a normal blog about Disney. At times like this, a vacation is the furthest thing from anyone’s mind.
I have a connection to Newtown. I don’t live there. I never have. I now live in South Carolina, but I relocated after my husband and I were married in 2003. In another small town in Connecticut. In fact, it is the town right next to it. My husband is from a larger town also next to Newtown. He was born and raised there. He went to school in the town next door. His football team played against Newtown High School. Some of his friends went to Sandy Hook Elementary. We have friends up there who are like family. We spent a lot of our dating relationship in that town, ate alot of pizza at Newtown Pizza Palace, our children ate there with us when we visited last year and so for us, this hit home. But it hit us in another way. We are parents of a 4 year old girl and a 6 year old boy. We chose to homeschool our children, but if we didn’t, our children would be in a school-whether it be private or public makes no difference. The threat is always there. The chance of something happening is always there. It could just as well happen at church. Those kids could have been our kids. A thought I cannot even fathom. My husband has been deeply moved by what happened because it feels like he was attacked. This was in his backyard. He feels a connection to those families. It feels the way 9-11 did. I’m a New Yorker. I was a teacher. We were both living up there at the time. It’s like reliving a nightmare, only this time it’s little children. This has broken our heart and the heart of our nation. You attack children, you attack us.
I’m also a former teacher. I remember having to “train” for a tragedy such as this. But how does someone train for something so horrific? I remember when we had a mock full-on crisis drill where we were supposed to pretend that the police officers were actually armed intruders looking for us. I, along with my 15 eighth grade students hid under tables in the back of the room. We were supposed to remain silent, make no motions as we heard noise and yelling in the hallway. As we heard them outside the door. As we heard the door open. As we saw their feet walk in the class. It wasn’t real. It wasn’t really happening. But I can tell you, it was the most terrifying point in my teaching career. I knew something like this potentially could happen. I knew I would be my students’ defender if this ever happened. I knew I would give up my life for them. There was nowhere to hide in my classroom. No closets for us to hide in. Only long lab desks. The relief we felt when they turned and walked away and when we got the all clear from the “good guys” is hard to describe. Some might say, “Why would the police do something like this?” “Why put kids through this?” My answer. Friday is why they do it. No one can fully prepare for that kind of horror, but when you have a responsibility to protect those in your care, it becomes your job to know how to handle it. The first responders, teachers and rest of the staff are heroes. Real heroes. Not the kind the media likes to make out as heroes. Not athletes. Not celebrities. TRUE HEROES. When you consider how many more lives could have been lost with the amount of ammunition he had, you know that God’s hands were reaching down from heaven into that school through the lives of those who stood in front of those children. God did not want this. Those were HIS children. Evil is what sent them home.
Everyone is trying to make sense of this. How do you? It is truly senseless. Meaning, without sense. Without comprehension. The only way I can understand this is through my faith. The faith that transcends all. The faith that allows me to somewhat wrap my head around a tragedy such as this. I think those people who suffer through tragedies such as this and come out with such an amazing level of compassion, even for the perpetrator, must have it in abundance. I’m sure I would not be there at this point if it had been my child, but I would pray that down the road, I’d be able to be that way. There is evil in this world. If anyone doubted that, they can’t anymore. There is evil and those who bring that on the innocent. It is because of evil that as a nation we are suffering and mourning right now. It’s not about guns, it’s not about mental health issues. It’s a matter of the heart. It’s not right. It’s not acceptable. It’s not what God wanted for His children. It’s not what He wanted for their children. He weeps along with them.
So, how as a parent do you move on from this? I’m not speaking to those who lost their children because they will grieve in a way that is unique to them. Those kids were theirs. Their flesh and blood. They will forever bear the scar of evil on earth. Same holds true for the survivors. For the staff who will one day have to walk into that school, the same classrooms, and feel comfortable being there. Elementary schools are places where it should feel warm and fuzzy. Not like it feels now. And the children. How do they “get back to normal” when normal isn’t what it used to be? I have friends right now that live a few miles to hundreds of miles away from Newtown who were struggling this morning with how to get back to “normal”. How do you put your child on a bus knowing it may be the last time you see them? How do you not worry all day long that something might happen? How? How? How?
There is only one answer. Faith. Without that, I don’t know how anyone gets through their day. Every day we step foot outside of our house there is a chance something could happen. My husband and I watched a movie recently that proves my point. The couple’s daughter went to a birthday party, just like anyone’s child would. She was driven by another parent. Their daughter was killed by a drunk driver. Evil is in the world. It can happen anywhere, at anytime. It happened in Newtown. It could happen in your town. It could happen in my town. Evil is everywhere. What is the answer? Do we give up? Do we stop doing what we have always done? Or do we have faith and pray to God for protection and thank our blessings every day? Do we take what happened and use it to fix ourselves, our lives, to get our hearts right with our Creator? Do we instill those same beliefs in our children who are growing up in a vastly different world than we did? I think we know the answer. We are all broken in some way.
So, in remembrance of those that lost their lives on Friday, and the families and friends left behind, pray. Pray that they may know the peace that transcends all. Pray that they may be comforted and that their memories will one day become filled with happy times again. Right now they are suffering. They are grieving. All they can see is what was lost. Pray that they may be reminded every day of the warm smiles, laughter, silly games, I love yous, the pictures their kids drew that made it seem like they needed a bigger house, the what seemed like annoying requests to climb on their lap or to get them a drink, or the mornings they were awakened early. Let those be the memories that fill their minds and not the memories of what happened on Friday or what will happen this week. Pray that their child’s short life will be cherished and not looked at in sadness. The angels who are now in heaven, were angels here on earth. If you have children in your life, whether they be yours or someone you are related to, spend time with them. In fact, spend time with everyone. We are blessed every morning we rise and should be thankful each night we put our head on the pillow that we were given one more day with those we love. Say I love you before you hang up the phone. Say I love you when someone goes to leave. Let your children and those you love know they are cherished. Every day. Not just because of this. Make sure you tell your children what they are great at, every day. What you love about them. How much God loves them.
What we knew as “normal” is gone. We need a new “normal”. Let this be the way you choose to live it out. Let the new be even better than before. Do not let the lives lost at Sandy Hook Elementary simply fade away. Love like you’ve never loved before. Love like you never knew was even possible. And when you look at your children, know there are 20 little guardian angels standing around them.