As with some of the more horrific events that have plagued our last decade, we will all, unfortunately, remember where we were and what we were doing as the reality of the unthinkable acts at Sandy Hook Elementary were unfolding this past Friday the 14th. We can add it to the list, along with Columbine, Virginia Tech, Aurora, the Gabby Giffords’ shooting, etc. etc.
I was at a Starbucks 1/8 of a mile from Newtown meeting with a client.
Emphasizing the gravity of the event, as the next 24 hours unfolded, was the proximity and the people we knew, friends, and friends of friends whose kids attended Sandy Hook Elementary.
Sitting there at Starbucks, frozen to my chair, and as the next few hours unfurled, I watched, and absorbed, and tried to ascertain fact from rumor as person after person entered the coffee shop either looking for or revealing small tidbits they’d been gathering from the news, their friends, the school calls to their respective phones. All that was really known I’d learned earlier through the robo call sent out to all of the parents; that a violent act had occurred in neighboring Newtown, that our schools were all going into “lockdown” mode and that all after school activities were being cancelled.
By 2PM ish, many of the facts had been laid out, much of the full scope of the tragedy was ghoulishly seeping its way into our heads and the following 24 hours were spent dreamlike, along with a tandem family crises, with our family, like so many others, desperately transfixed and unable to tear ourselves from the TV and internet news reports.
Fast forward a few days later and with a bit more perspective I’m drawn, as are most people, to come up with SOME sort of SOMETHING that makes sense, that will help my kids, help this broken community, help these families, help…in some small way. We all feel very helpless. To punctuate that, just take a look at the blog The Patch’s Jaimie Cura posted on Friday giving people an outlet to post “I want to help"” in the comments section. At last glance the “I want to help” posts are at 1,223. People want to help.
Not accidentally, helping and helplessness share a word. In order to help my daughter not feel helpless she lovingly set out 20 luminary vigil candles in paper bags with heart cut outs along our walkway in honor of the 20 children killed (she would have set out 26 but we ran out of bags) on Saurday evening , along with many other Brookfield families. Being there for our friends in pain was both a help for us as well as for them. Drawing us together to mourn and count our own blessings and luck was a help. Realizing that on a relative scale many of our problems are very, very small was a help.
On a much broader scale, there is a huge sense of helplessness we as a nation are feeling right now as access to these (semi?) automatic weapons are so easily attainable and incidents such as what happened right here in our own little community increase at a startling rate, proving to us that neither we nor our children are safe, anywhere.
I will not turn this into a political discussion except to say this: when President Obama gave his talk Sunday evening at Newtown High School citing that this was the 4th memorial service of this nature that he has attended in his 4 years of office, ears perked up. That was a statement no president wants to be making, and it was very clear that President Obama was no exception. He added:
“Can we honestly say that we are doing enough to keep our children, all of them, safe from harm?....I’ve been reflecting on this the last few days and if we’re honest with ourselves, the answer’s no we’re not doing enough. And we will have to change.”
Help can be carried out in very personal and varied ways. It certainly raises us up out of ourselves. It sure as heck makes us better people. And change, as scary as it may be at times, takes bravery and strength. Lets be brave, and strong for our kids. Lets help, lets be the change, finally, this time, for our kids.