SHREWSBURY, Massachusetts – There are times in our lives when our long practiced ability to communicate simply fails us, and there are just no words to describe how we feel. Perhaps that means that things are to remain unsaid, yet I feel that this, in some way, would fail to honor the deep sense of loss associated with this horror.
Where does one begin? We can extend our heartfelt sympathies, of course, but how do you grasp in some tangible way the life altering fear that must have raced through the minds of these precious children? How do you talk about the bravery of the teachers who held in their arms a child who’s only words were “I don’t want to die, I want to have Christmas.” I am not one who is too often at a loss for words, but I find nothing in my vocabulary that can put to pen the thoughts racing through my mind tonight as a parent of three children of my own.
With absolutely no light-heartedness intended, I cannot help but reflect back to a speech given by Martin Sheen, portraying President Bartlett on the television program, The West Wing. He delivered this speech after a similar incident had taken place at a fictional school. It has always resonated with me as a great piece of writing, solely because of it’s ability to find words, where none seemed to be.
“…More than any time in recent history, America’s destiny is not of our own choosing. We did not seek nor did we provoke an assault on our freedoms and our way of life. We did not expect nor did we invite a confrontation with evil. Yet the true measure of a people’s strength is how they rise to master that moment when it does arrive. Forty-four students were killed a couple hours ago… and two others are in critical condition. The streets of heaven are too crowded with angels tonight. They’re our students and our teachers and our parents and our friends. The streets of heaven are too crowded with angels, but every time we think we have measured our capacity to meet a challenge, we look up and we’re reminded that that capacity may well be limitless. This is a time for American heroes. We will do what is hard. We will achieve what is great. This is a time for American heroes and we reach for the stars. God bless their memory….”
In the coming days and weeks, we will undoubtedly learn more about precious souls who were lost this day. We will as a society, ask once again what type of mental illness drives people to such horror, and why we see this happen, at one level or another, over and over again. We will talk about gun violence, about school security, about the warnings signs that we all missed that would have foretold of the potential danger waiting just behind the Rockwellian portrait that was this quaint town in Western Connecticut. Those days will come, somewhere down the road. For today, however, there are dozens of homes that are living through an unimaginable horror. Dozens of holiday gifts sit under trees, gifts that will never be opened to the screeching delight of children early on Christmas morning. Dozens of parents that will never again see in the eyes of their child that serene sense of innocence that lives only in the hearts and minds of a young child.
For tonight, and in the days to come, let us speak only the names of the victims of this senseless tragedy. Let us hold our own children the a little bit closer, and assure them that despite what they may hear and see, the world is a place of peace, love, and childish naivete. Let us love each other, and care for each other, and process the horror of the day in whatever way makes us feel that much more secure.