Like everybody else, I’m still trying to wrap my head around the tragedy that happened Friday in Newtown, Connecticut. How does somebody walk into a school and kill 27 people? 20 of which were only between the ages of 5 and 10 years old?
It seems like we are hearing about mass shootings too often. Names like Columbine, Virginia Tech, and Aurora come to mind. Just a few days ago, Portland was added to the list. These are, of course, national stories and we feel the pain and grief associated with them. What makes Newtown different for me, is that this happened almost quite literally in my backyard.
I live in Danbury, which is just two towns over from Newtown and the village of Sandy Hook where Friday’s shooting happened. I drive past Sandy Hook Elementary School at least once a week. I have a personal connection with Newtown. I’ve heard the the town described on the news today as “bucolic”, “picturesque”, and “quaint.” All of these are true. It’s a beautiful, upper-middle class town. The iconic “New England” town where everybody knows everybody else. The town with the beautiful Main Street lined with colonial style houses built in the 1700’s, and adorned with plaques explaining their historic significance. There is an enormous flagpole smack in the middle of Main Street that the town is known for. It’s not the type of place where you would expect something this gruesome to take place. You expect this to only happen in large urban areas. I know this isn’t true… It can happen anywhere. I will never be able to drive through the Sandy Hook area of Newtown again without thinking of what happened… How seven adults were gunned down and how twenty children became little angels today… Chanukah gifts left unopened, Christmas presents still sitting under the tree.
Because this happened so close to home, I am waiting to find out what kind of connection I have to the people involved. It’s inevitable. I may not know any of the victims or heroes personally, but I’m willing to bet that I know somebody who does. I’ve been scrolling through Facebook today and I found out that a friend of mine went to grade school with Dawn Hochsprung, the principal of Sandy Hook Elementary School who was killed in Friday’s massacre. I imagine that over the next few days I will find out that I have more connections, even if they are second and third degree.
I’m not a parent. I know that I’m devastated, but I cannot even fathom what people with children in that school must have been going through. Twenty sets of parents were told today that their children will not be coming home. That is the saddest thing that I can imagine.
This is something that is going to hang over not only Newtown and the State of Connecticut, but over our country for years to come. I’m sure I don’t have to say this, but hug your kids. Tell the people you care about that you love them. This CAN happen anywhere.