12.14.2012

Sandy Hook Elementary School

I'm a little raw today, and a friend suggested that I write. That's what I do. I write when I have feelings to express. Today, I have some words to say.

If you are unaware, this morning in Newtown, Connecticut, an unnamed gunman entered an elementary school and killed twenty-seven students, teachers, and administrators. The death count is still rising. Twenty of those twenty-seven deaths were children between the ages of five and ten, eighteen on the scene and two later today in the hospital.

There is no room in my heart for anger, not yet. Only pain for those twenty little souls stolen from us, and those seven more who still had so much left to do in this world. With each death of an innocent, there is a wave of pain; with twenty-seven, it's an earthquake, the tremors of a nation caught by surprise.

When I was less than a week into the fourth grade, my teacher stood up and left the room. We had been quietly doing our work, but when our teacher left, we knew that something was wrong. He stood outside, talking with the other teachers, for a very long time, then returned to the classroom, wheeling a TV on a cart behind him. He turned on the news, and we watched footage of the first World Trade Center tower collapsing. I still remember the breaking news, when they cut to new footage of a plane going into the second tower. There was an explosion, there were papers and chairs flying out of the windows, then eventually people. The whole classroom watched in silence.

After being dismissed early from school, I watched the news again, the same footage being played over and over again. The planes, the explosions, the desks and the people falling from fifty, one hundred flights up. They showed New York City covered in ash, firefighters and policemen bravely trying to get people to safety. Less than one hundred miles from where I sat in my living room, people were dying. Lots of people. A city was in panic.

That was my first experience of true violence and fear. I was a child. I didn't understand fully what was happening, but I knew by the reactions of the adults around me that it was bad, and it was very, very real. For weeks and months, it was all anyone talked about. The death toll rose, and the hope of loved ones returning fell.

I don't know why it always has to be tragedy that brings a nation together. I don't know why children have to experience awful things, painful things. I don't know why people have to die.

To the families and friends of those who were taken from us today, know that, for this moment, an entire nation feels with you. We cannot and will not ever feel your pain, even if we wish we could take it from you. Your loss is creating shock-waves, and hopefully the kind of shock-waves that will lead to action that will protect schools, students and teachers, from harm.

I believe in God, and I believe in families that are eternal, but that doesn't ease the pain in my heart that I hold for you. Your precious loved ones are gone. Your children, your husbands and wives, your brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers, are gone, and for what reason? I wish I had that answer.

I wish I could tell you that the pain will fade with time. Maybe it will, but never enough. Never enough for you to close that hole in your heart that belongs to the one you've lost.

This pain will shape you. I hope it shapes you for good. I hope it gives you passion to do what is right, to make a difference. I hope that it helps you to find hope instead of darkness.

There are things that I could say to you about my own pain, the pain of losing a baby brother not much younger than the children that our nation mourns today, but it's not your own pain. Your loss, your pain, is your own, and as much as others will sympathize and empathize, it will be yours to hold for years to come. I know that. I know that getting angry doesn't get rid of that pain, only buries it. It will always be waiting for you in the quiet hours.

Still, I want you to know that I love you, that God loves you, and that this is not the end. Don't make the mistake that I did in thinking that having your own pain means you are alone in it. Jesus Christ knows you and your pains unlike anyone else. If you don't know where to turn, turn to Him.

Know that a nation mourns for your sweet ones today, and despite all of our differences, we are together, at least, in loving you and those you have lost. Through the months ahead, don't forget the ones that love you more than anything. They hope for you. They pray for you. They will do anything for you, if you ask.

God bless and keep you. You are in my prayers.

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