Like other parents, I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw the first news alert that a school shooting happened – in Newtown, Connecticut – at an elementary school.
Stunning. Devastating. Unimaginable. Heartbreaking. You name it – every emotion comes to mind and has been experienced by so many.
In this time of technology it was informative and overwhelming all at the same time to watch the story unfold. Similar to other tragedies, there’s such a strong feeling of being torn between having no more tears left to read any further and an even stronger feeling that somehow by reading everything and following the story, it would be an expression of support in acknowledging its significance.
With young daughters we’ve raised to be sensitive about others [even those we don’t know] and who’ve seen me cry at movies, books, and otherwise, they’d heard the word empathy before and don’t hesitate to ask why they see tears. We made every effort to follow the common advice of how to approach the subject without creating fear about violence at school.
What created a big learning curve for us was the amount and way in which they heard details from friends and of course the technology where even kids saw images on Facebook and the web. Even at young ages, kids experience the same disbelief.
Why write this and mention again the sadness and strong emotions this tragedy has evoked? When you have that “writer” bone in you like I do, you want to use writing as a form as expression. I often “dream” about the things I’d say when writing letters, articles, and otherwise. That first weekend of Dec. 14th, I dreamt of writing to the families to express our sympathy, writing to the emergency workers who comforted the other children at school who survived, and so on; but I also dreamt of being on the news team of reporters and walking that fine line of telling the story while exercising compassion.
Having studied journalism, I have both appreciated the wide coverage of the story and cringed upon reading some others. When I was Editor of our college weekly, I was tasked with reporting on a campus stabbing at the time and still recall the letter from the victim who told me I handled the coverage eloquently; as you can tell at age 40, that stuck with me.
So you see, I’m already at this point and haven’t gotten to the point of writing! As someone who often struggles with identifying the positives in the midst of an overwhelming situation, I found myself grasping at this from afar. With a heavy heart and after taking in so much sad information, it’s only natural to want to feel something lighter.
Here are my observations:
- People that seldom prayed before are praying; friends and relatives that rarely show PDA are now hugging
- While Facebook meant the sharing of many news articles and photos, it’s also meant sharing lots of hero stories, encouraging poems, and spiritual posts
- Angels have become the symbol of these children and their teachers – those who hadn’t talked about angels or heaven before are now embracing the belief
- Daughters, sons, best friends, teachers – those who lost their lives are named over and over, close up images all over – an incredible testament; this doesn’t happen with every tragic story where generally names are initially released and then only occasionally mentioned again; with Newtown, many, many tributes contain each victim’s name - from statues, crosses and trees to teddy bears, stocking and other memorials
- Teachers and school staff who spend 6+ hours with children each day have regained their admiration of the many families across the country – there’s no way you couldn’t be touched by what you’ve heard about these teachers who truly took care of these children as if their own, their actions putting the kids first (just typing this now makes me teary all over again). It’s every parent’s hope that your child spends the day with someone as incredible as they are; stories like what happened in that first grade classroom reinforce a belief that a teacher takes on a very critical role for our children
- Stories and images of the many, many adults who suddenly were named heroes even though they likely were unsung heroes before December 14th – school staff, community volunteers,neighbors, police and rescue workers from around the state and beyond – each headline more touching than the last (Did you see the headline about the NFL Giants game?)
- The contagious spirit called Random Acts of Kindness – from the stories of distant philanthropists sending monetary donations, coffee deliveries, bakers travelling to deliver pies, massive pizza and burger deliveries – to the random acts all over in Newtown’s honor – drive through stories of customers paying for others and so on. What an incredible way to take such collective sadness, channel that energy and inspire goodness toward others?
So what's left to be said? Again - referring to the newsfeed on Facebook - it's heartwarming to see the stories from the families and how they feel so supported by this country and others from afar.
The magnitude of the sense of community compassion is simply incredible. You are not alone is a sentiment we keep seeing from our community to another, all faiths, all kinds of families, all kinds of expressions of love and kindness. Let's all do our part, however small or large, to sustain that compassion and support and just as important, let's perpetuate the spirit and goodwill of Random Acts of Kindess.