Newton, CT: Every Child’s Death Diminishes Me

To the parents and family members and friends of the children and teachers killed in Newtown: I am sorry.

Like most of us, I imagine, I’ve been reading what people are saying about the event and trying to understand.

Charlotte, Daniel, Rachel: I am sorry.

We are all, as a nation, participating to a degree in the grief and rage of that horrific event. We are raging at the loss of precious life, at the violation of the innocence of our children, at the invasion of the safety of our schools. We’re blaming each other; we’re getting defensive. We are very, very angry.

Olivia, Josephine, Ana: I am sorry.

And we are all to blame. We are all participants in creating a country where crazy people are free to carry guns and children are not free to learn and grow in safety. We are to blame for a culture of violence and fear wherein the technologies that some regard as means of protection have become a daily threat to the most defenseless members of our society.

Dylan, Dawn, Madeleine: I am sorry.

I have been trying to understand the question of when is the time to “politicize” this event. If politicize means to allow the special interests that stand to gain or lose to have a say in how we choose to live, then the answer to that must be never. But one thing seems clear: as long as there is no reason, no coherence, no sanity in the supply of weapons, we won’t find reason, or coherence, or sanity in their use. And people will shoot other people.

Catherine, Chase, Jesse: I am sorry.

So let’s try to keep entrenched political positions and the influence of special interests out of this. Because whether you own a gun or not, whether you make a great deal of money through the flow of arms through our system or not, we all must want to keep our children safe. Let’s start from there: what will keep our children safe?

James, Grace, Anne Marie: I am sorry.

I’ve heard discussions of arming the teachers, of turning the schools into armed camps, of creating fortresses out of our schools into which our children can disappear in the morning and emerge at school’s end. Is this what we want for ourselves? Is this the world in which we want to raise our children? Is this the world we want to create and inhabit?

Emilie, Jack, Noah: I am sorry.

Forget, for a moment, the debate on the constitution and how it should be understood. Forget for a moment the rage that this feeds into that makes some Americans perhaps feel an even greater need to buy and stockpile weapons to protect them from the strangers, the people with other opinions, the people who threaten their rights.

Caroline, Jessica, Avielle: I am sorry.

Living in a democracy can be frightening, especially if we don’t trust one another, especially if we allow our perceptions to be manipulated by people who stand to make money from our fears. And yes, if we can become the change, if we can stop being fearful and angry, for sure we’ll stop shooting each other. But until then let’s just take a deep breath and step away from the weapons.

Lauren, Mary, Victoria, Benjamin: I am sorry.

The loss of these precious children is a loss to every one of us. Because as John Donne once told us, we are none of us an island. We are part of one another, we belong to one another. And every man’s death—every child’s death—diminishes us.

Allison, Nancy, and Adam: I am sorry.

2 Replies to “Newton, CT: Every Child’s Death Diminishes Me”

  1. This is beautifully written and incredibly poignant. Thank you for sharing. If any of you are like me, feeling what I am feeling, please read my letter to you and to myself:
    Dear Parents- One week ago today our world was forever changed by the horrific and senseless act of one evil person. We, as parents, are forever altered. We cried, couldn’t wait to hold our babies at the end of that day and cried again as we put them on the bus the following Monday morning. I was heartbroken all over again just now, watching the moment of silence, hearing the church bells. There is without a doubt a sense of survivor’s remorse; a sort of misplaced guilt that WE get to have our children here and should honor that with gratitude and an unshakable tolerance. But I am here to tell you that it’s ok. It’s ok to keep living. So stop torturing yourselves every time you have a moment of impatience with your children. We are incredibly blessed to have them safe with us, but those moments of less than perfect parenting are OK. There are going to be mornings when they fight with you about getting dressed and evenings when they refuse to go to bed, and guess what? You WILL get frustrated. Because you are human, and so are they, and kids can be frustrating and parenting is HARD. Amazing and rewarding and a God-given gift, but hard too. They need the discipline and structure that they are used to and YOU need to stop picturing their faces on the news. So it’s ok. And all of those things that you don’t really feel like doing for Christmas? Do them anyway. And do them with 100% enthusiasm, just because you can, and because they need you to. Remember the fallen, but live for the living. Take all the rage and vulnerability that you felt putting them on the bus the Monday after the shooting and channel it into impassioned joy. Hold them, love them, sing, bake cookies, and when they meltdown from too much Christmas, put them in time out like you always do and don’t feel badly about it. Our hearts are forever damaged by what happened in Connecticut, but that doesn’t mean that your heart can’t be filled with joy and hope and possibility by what’s going on in your own home. A friend of mine commented that maybe the world didn’t ACTUALLY end today, but maybe the world as we KNEW it ended. Maybe it’s a new beginning, one in which random acts of kindness are not a special event, but a way of life. Sounds good to me. Live, laugh, love. And Merry Christmas. =)

    1. Thank you for your comment, Gina. If we could all be parents first and everything else second it might be much clearer to us all how we actually want to live.

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