The world did not end on December 21, 2012. However, on December 14th of last year our world changed forever. Just when it was beginning to feel like Christmas there was a shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut that changed everything. There were dozens of children killed along with educators and the school principal. The magnitude of the tragedy and the ages of the majority of the victims brought our country to our knees.
A Year Later, We Have No Answers
Each of those killed meant the world to somebody. And their absence left a tremendous void. The survivors have holes in their hearts that will never heal. And the rest of us remain confused and outraged.
The tragedy raised many questions for which we still have no answers. What kind of sick son of a bitch commits mass murder? How could anybody target innocent children? And how do we continue to live and have peace when this tragedy remains a possibility?
Even a year later, we still have no answers. While anyone with a heart was moved by the tragedy, we process our grief differently.
Some have morphed this into a constitutional debate about the right to bear arms. It has become a liberty issue. Coming from a family who started one of the first African-American gun clubs in the country, I can appreciate the liberty issue. However, while that is a related issue, that debate is off topic.
The debate should be about how do we preserve life? The Declaration of Independence says that our nation was founded on the principles that “all men” should be entitled to pursue “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” in that order. We should note that we cannot pursue liberty, or enjoy our freedoms, without life. For that reason, the only relevant question after this extraordinary tragedy is how do we preserve life?
Figuring out how to preserve life, making it more difficult for dangerous people to obtain fire arms and harm more innocent people is one way to make this unspeakable tragedy have even greater meaning.
All Parents Were Moved By the Tragedy
Like most parents, the tragedy hit me at my core. There are times when I embrace my daughter tightly with tears in my eyes. I inhale her sweet scent. Stroke her hair and pause. It hits me that she isn’t much younger than those twenty children who lost their lives that day. Those children were simply and innocently living their lives in the midst of their regular routine.
They were attending Sandy Hook Elementary school. They did not return home that day and never will again. Each of those children was somebody’s baby and they were deeply loved.
As I write this, I learn that a student in Colorado opened fire at school as well. What we want most as parents is to protect our children. However, things like working, bathing, and eating interfere with our ability to be with them all of time. And even if we were able to be with them, we are human and suffer from the limitations of that condition. What we want to do most of all is largely out of our control. The reality of that is sobering and can be maddening if you let it.
Remember to Cherish Every Moment With Your Children
We cannot change what happened, but we can change our own lives. We owe it to the families directly affected by the Newtown tragedies and to ourselves to celebrate lives and our blessings.
The pageantry and commercialism of the holidays have both captivated me and disgusted me for years. However, in light of the tragedy, I view them differently. Last Christmas season and this Christmas season I am aware that tomorrow is not promised. If you watch the local news for more than two minutes at night you are reminded that the world is concomitantly a violent and a beautiful place. There are massacres, natural disasters, and accidents that interrupt our lives and make the unthinkable a reality for too many families.
The pageantry of Christmas—the carols, the decorations, the cartoons—it all matters. It exists to remind us that this is a special time and magic is possible. It reminds us that in the midst of tragedies are traditions that have been passed on for generations and that those traditions provide us with comfort. They also provide our children with precious memories.
Cherish the time that you have with your children, every moment. Even if your family is blessed to be spared a tragedy, those moments are still gone much too soon.