I don’t get too serious very often, but today’s post warrants just that…
This Friday morning started out as any other Friday morning would for the students and staff at Newtown, Connetitcut’s Sandy Hook Elementary School. With only a mere week until Christmas vacation, everyone was in the highest of spirits, looking forward to classroom Christmas parties, gift exchanges and of course the full two weeks of no school that were to follow. Growing up, I can remember this time of year. It truly was the best; the countdown to Christmas was in full swing; homework was winding down and teachers were often so tired, their minds already set on “break mode” that they seemed nicer and were more lenient on us candy-cane and cupcake ladened students.
As Friday afternoon rolled around, the Newtown Public School District homepage remained sprinkled with fragile snowflakes and news of end-of-semester activities. The only seemingly out-of-place note on a page largely devoted to seasonal joys was an ominously glowing exclamation point in the upper right-hand corner. Alongside it was this message: “Afternoon kindergarten is cancelled today, Dec. 14th. There will be no mid-day bus runs.”
Kindergarten was canceled, as was the daily routine of all our lives, as early relief about an apparently thwarted shooting at this elementary school unfolded into the unimaginable horror of 26 dead – 21 of them children — at this K-4 campus.
The story is all the more sickening in its cliches. Again and again, those who were interviewed said, “This is a nice town. This is a safe place. Things like this don’t happen here.”
Just like they said after Columbine, after Virginia Tech, after Aurora. After too many incidents to list, or even remember.
Again, we hear of a heavily armed and armored man dressed in black, of strict security measures supposedly in place, of stories of regular folks who vaulted into life-saving heroics.
The school’s principal and other staffer members are among those who lost their lives in this senseless and horrific shooting. Yet it’s difficult to think about anything beyond those youngest victims. Children between the ages of 5 and 10. Little kids who most certainly had “visions of sugar plums dancing in their heads” and thoughts of winter break — just one week away — pulling their attention from their studies. Children already looking forward to the day’s final bell, the signal to a weekend of holiday parties, parades and pictures with Santa.
Instead, the youngsters were abruptly wrenched from their high spirits by staff pushing them pellmell to safety, in some cases past bodies and pools of blood. Can you imagine?
I cannot even fathom.
Safety seems a relative word in the crushing aftermath of what these children witnessed — and what the parents of those dead children are suffering. Not to mention the families of the adult victims. That this happened in the midst of the holiday season only makes it all the worse.
It will be a long time before those of us who watched the story unfold — who saw the twisted horror on the faces of the escaping students and the heartbreak on the faces of their parents – will feel any kindling of holiday spirit.
For now, we just numbly ask one another: When will this end?!
Something like this makes me reflect on my own life. No one knows what each day is going to bring, do we? These staff members drinking their morning coffee on their way to work this morning, the children grabbing their book bags and lunch boxes on their way out of the door to catch their bus, none of them knew the horror of what was to enfold just a few hours later. How could they? Nobody ever thinks that something like this could happen to them, something so terrible and unthinkable and completely heart-breaking. School is supposed to be a safe place, a secure place. Yet as we have witnessed over the past few years–Columbine, Virginia Tech, the Aurora movie theater–senseless acts of violence like this continue to occur.
This hate, this complete and utter hatred has got to stop!
How any one can take their problems or issues or lack of compassion out on innocent lives boggles my mind!
It is in these circumstances that remind me of how truly precious our lives are. My heart and my prayers go to the survivors, the grieving families and to the communities affected by this horrific tragedy.
I ask that you join me tonight in saying an extra prayer.I also ask that you say “I love you” to your friends and family, your co-workers and mailmen, your teachers and your four-legged pals. Give them a hug, a kiss, a pat on the back. Do it while you can. As often as you can.