Like the parents of Sandy Hook Elementary School, Friday morning was just like any other. For me in my world, I got up, went to the gym, and started my day, back in Connecticut for 36 hours on my way back from Europe and home to Canada for the holidays. These parents no doubt got their children up and ready for a fun day of holiday festivities at elementary school, as Winter Break loomed ever so close.
After my trip to the gym, I got to my friend’s house as we were going to head to the outlets to do some Christmas shopping. It was an absolutely beautiful day, one that felt more October than December.
When I arrived at my friend’s house, her Mom told me the first snippets of news. There had been a school shooting in Sandy Hook in Newtown, only about 30 minutes away. She reassured that it didn’t seem like anyone had been killed, and my friend and I took off for the outlets, surprised that such an event could happen so close to where we lived.
Once we made the 45-minute drive to the outlets we started our Christmas shopping. We were in line at the first store when cell phones started ringing with the devastating news. It had just been announced that 20 little elementary school students had been shot dead as well as six of the staff at the school who were no doubt trying to protect them.
The tears started to flow, and the sick feeling in my stomach started to spread. It’s a feeling that has sat there since Friday morning, and I’m anticipate will get worse as we learn more about those who had their lives ripped from them that fateful day.
In the first of parents to speak about his deceased child, the father of Emilie Parker did an eloquent job of eulogizing his beautiful 6 year old to the media on his doorstep, a caring, compassionate, artistic little six year old girl. In a beautiful display of humanity despite his obvious pain, he offered love and compassion to the family of the shooter as well, in a truly moving speech. See it here
I do the registration for girlsCAN, and being a geek who memorizes far too much pointless information too easily, I knew we had four families that were from Sandy Hook/Newtown as soon as the news broke. One in particular that I couldn’t get out of my head is a little blond first grader who is a regular at our program who is from that town and went to that school. I think of the other kids that we have that have little siblings and just all the beautiful little souls that we have in our programs that were in classrooms in the same county, and it just breaks my heart to think about losing even one of them. Let alone how 20 parents who bore and raised their children had to stare at empty beds the last two nights.
This story hits home even farther because I lived in Newtown, the small town of 25,000. I drove through it every day for my first two months in Connecticut last September where the wonderful mom of the family I lived with was on the staff of the middle school. When people say that Newtown is the last place they ever expected something like this to happen, I can assure you that it’s not a cliche, but the truth. It’s a place where we didn’t lock the doors during the day, where the colonial roots enveloped the town at every idyllic turn, with beautifully kept brick buildings, flag poles at the center of town, and leafy trees on rolling hills.
Like most people I’ve been reading things wondering how what happened can be possible and trying to make sense of it all. From what I’ve seen, there are two strong themes emerging; one is the lack of help for families dealing with mental health issues, and the second is gun control.
From the mental health standpoint, I don’t think anything addresses the issue better about what needs to change than this incredibly brave piece, written by a mother dealing with a son with a mental issue: see here
However in this blog, I want to focus on the gun issue, and in this light, what I found most poignant on the subject was this story that hits the nail on the head.
It was from a father who the day of the Newtown shootings was marking the 20-year anniversary of his son’s death who was also killed in a school shooting, back when mass shootings weren’t the norm. He spoke about how for years he has been lobbying for people to take gun control seriously, but that in time he’s realized that we do have the power to change the gun laws in the US, but nobody cares enough to really do anything about it.
It struck me, because it’s the core of so much in our world that is wrong. We lament things, we talk about them, we cry about them, but we don’t care enough to do our little part to change it.
The fact is if the majority of Americans were polled, especially if they knew there was a good chance that by outlawing guns, the malls, schools, movie theatres, beauty salons, and places of worship that have all been struck with mass shootings in the last couple of years, would be safe again, my money is a overwhelming majority would agree to get rid of guns (And in case you don’t think it makes a difference, read the research on other countries who have tightened gun laws, here)
Even if you don’t want to outlaw guns, then at least let’s compromise and say no more semi-automatic weapons in the hands of citizens. 26 lives were wiped out in 2 minutes without a chance.
I’m sure that the majority believes the right to go to those places and know that they would be safe, far outweighs, any sort of “freedom” that comes from ordinary citizens to be able to obtain and bear semi automatic weapons. But we are the silent majority. Therefore the number of us don’t matter.
Although the gun worshippers are a minority, they care enough about their beliefs to come together and fight tooth and nail to maintain what the majority disagrees with. But like so much else that is wrong in this world, the majority, although they know what is right, sits silent, overrun until some kind of horrific tragedy, shoots the madness to the forefront of the media.
So let’s stop talking about how sad we are. Stop crying tears of sadness for all those poor families that have had their lives irrevocably shattered. May government leaders stop spouting the same old tired speeches that espouses from every time a tragedy like this occurs. Because in an albeit indirect way, it is our society that, through our silence and lack of action, is endorsing the laws that allow tragedies like this to occur.
Because let’s be honest; as this brave parent who is marking the death of his child from a school shooting twenty years ago, put it best: if enough people truly cared enough to take action to change the gun control laws, mass shootings would be an anomaly instead of a near monthly occurrence. There’s a very strong chance that 20 little children wouldn’t have senselessly died in a classroom in Newtown on Friday, because a mentally ill man wouldn’t have had such easy access to a semi-automatic weapon.
So let’s stop being the complacent majority that doesn’t care enough to act. Instead of crying any more tears or saying how truly horrific this is, let us all DO something, no matter how small. Take five minutes and write, tweet, email, to reach out to your local, state and federal government officials and tell them how atrocious things have gotten and demand change. Do it for the little children that will never wake up in their beds once again and families that will have a hole in their lives forever.
Do it before your lack of action allows the guns and madness that is enveloping the US wipe out someone who you can’t bear the thought of living without.