Shootings at Sandy Hook: Tragedy hits my home state

A cold reminder that children are our greatest gift.

I live in Connecticut, less than 45 minutes away from Sandy Hook elementary school. I, like the teachers in that school, spend my weekdays working with elementary school children. Last Thursday, some of the kids asked me to attend their Christmas concert. They came into school all dressed in red, white, and green. It was delightful to see them singing Christmas carols with high-pitched voices and smiling faces. I thought to myself, “This is what the holiday season is about.”

Children sitting inside school bus

File photo: Children sitting inside school bus

The next day, I heard the news about the massacre at Sandy Hook in Newtown. I was in disbelief. “No,” I thought, “tell me it isn’t true.” I checked the internet, read report after report. I turned on the news, and it hit me. This really happened. I started bawling. The tears just flowed down my cheeks. I felt like I’d been knocked over. I couldn’t wrap my mind around it. How can this be, in Connecticut and right before Christmas?

There’s something about tragedy that stuns us. We’re all aware of wickedness in the world. We watch the evening news. We know about child soldiers, terrorism, sex-trafficking victims. Yet the amount of violence we see, however high, doesn’t necessarily equal how much we care. Oftentimes we get desensitized to it all. I remember being a senior in high school when the Columbine shootings happened. At that time, school shootings seemed rare. Now they are commonplace. We’re prone to turn off the news and shut off our computers because we just can’t look at it anymore.

The shooting in Newtown was one we couldn’t look away from. It was children. Twenty precious children from ages 5 to 10 were killed. Eight adults, the school principal included. “What kind of monster would shoot first-graders?” we all wondered. What could his motive have been? Why would someone do something that evil?

The truth is, we may never get the answers we want. The shooter, Adam Lanza, killed his own mother, then drove to the Sandy Hook school and killed 28 others. Was it a mental health issue or the work of demonic activity? Was he a shy, unhappy young adult or a maniac? We may never know. Even if we did know, it sadly wouldn’t change what has happened. Answers won’t take the pain away. At best, they can possibly help us prevent similar situations in the future. In times like these, we look for concrete answers to help us make sense of it all. Evil frightens and confuses us. We assume that if we can understand the reasons and motives behind it, then maybe we can find a way to protect ourselves from it. We debate about gun control and how to make our schools safer. We question if this violence is a result of a nation turning away from God.

I agree that we must look for solutions. More importantly, we must pray and cry out to God for mercy in our land. We shouldn’t feed our children on violent entertainment. We have to keep fighting to overturn Roe v. Wade and end the bloodshed of the unborn. I believe that abortion feeds into a culture of death in our land. We should build healthy and happy families. But beyond that, we have to understand that evil will always be around us. Evil dwells in the heart of man. We are all desperately fallen and in need of mercy. I’m the first to admit, I need a Savior.

Yet just as there is evil in the world, there is good. Stories are emerging of teachers who heroically risked their lives to to help save children. Victoria Soto, a 27-year-old first-grade teacher, died attempting to shield her students from gunfire. Music teacher Maryrose Kristopik hid her children from danger while the shooter was yelling at the door, “Let me in, let me in!” Another young teacher, Kaitlin Roig, hid her first-grade students in the bathroom and locked the door when she heard the gunshots. Kaitlin told news reporters that she uttered prayers and told the children she loved them all. These heroic teachers did their best to protect and save the lives of the children they cared for. They are a shining example to us all.

Then there are the brave parents who are coping with an unimaginable loss. Robbie and Alyssa Parker lost their beautiful little girl Emilie. Robbie is courageously speaking out about his daughter and the amazing person she was. At a church service Friday night I heard about the loss of Ana Marquez-Green. I actually met Ana’s parents, Jimmy and Nelba, at the Big E Fair this past August. We have a mutual friend, and he introduced me to them as we were walking around and having fun. These loving parents are trying their best to cope with a loss they never expected to happen.

As a nation, we must show our love to these families. We must offer our prayers and condolences. If we can give money to a fund, or take the time to write a card, then we should do it. Here is a CNN article on practical ways to help. Healing will not be easy for these families and their community. It will take time and help from counselors, religious leaders, family, and friends. I am heading to a prayer vigil tonight at Newtown High. A small gesture to stand in solidarity with the hurting and wounded. President Obama is scheduled to attend as well. He is meeting with the families and will then attend the prayer gathering. Our nation is hurting from a tragedy we can’t comprehend. From this moment forward and for the rest of our lives, we must seek to protect the voiceless and the vulnerable children around us. They are our nation’s greatest gift.

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