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Ally Del Monte Headshot

Honoring Newtown: A Year Later

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The anniversary of the Newtown massacre is here. I live 20 minutes away from Newtown. On December 14, 2012 I spent hours in lockdown on the floor huddled under a window with weeping classmates in a classroom while we waited to be sure we were safe.

On December 14, my world changed. In a few hours, whatever innocence I had was lost. I knew fear, real fear. I knew sorrow, real sorrow. I knew confusion and hurt and pain and grief and the soul stealing certainty that I was never really safe. I wanted to curl up at home with my family and stay there where I felt the safest and hide. I didn't. Because I found something I thought was lost. I found strength and compassion and love. I found hope.

You can talk all you want about gun control, video games, mental illness and even bullying but not one of these were the sole cause of the death of these people. Yes, each of them have a place in tragedy. I do not place blame on any one thing. I blame it on so much more.

I blame society.

We've become a nation full of people who care more about ourselves than taking care of each other. Where the "what's in it for me" matters more than "how can I help?" We are worried more about fighting to get to the top then remembering to lift others up. Then something like this happens are we all take a good look at ourselves and think, "Wow. What have we become?"

Newtown, Connecticut, my neighboring town, was flooded with donations. People sent money, flowers, teddy bears, Christmas Trees and enough stuff to fill buildings and storage units until the town had to gently say, "Enough, please, no more." Why did people send so much to a community that you can argue didn't need anything other than their lost children and teachers back? Maybe it was because people wanted to show that they cared, and they were with Sandy Hook and to show their support. I think every single thing sent was sent with a wish or a prayer for peace and love. But the harsh true is a teddy bear isn't going to do a thing for the poor lost children of Sandy Hook. Flowers die, candles snuff out, food is eaten or goes bad and is thrown in the trash. What is remembered is how people acted.

We became a nation of friends who took care of each other. It was the little things that meant the most. The extra warm hug extending for comfort, taking a few minutes out to give a sincere compliment over a nice haircut, a beautiful smile or a great shirt. Helping an older person to the car with their groceries. A smile across the room. Picking up a tab for the table next to you. Random "you are fabulous" letters stuck in lockers and on mirrors. Shoveling snow for others, cleaning a windshield, walking a shelter dog, being a neighbor and friend. Telling people you appreciate them. Doing a siblings chores for no reason. Wiping tears from those who are weeping. Buying a stranger a cup of coffee. Saying "I love you," often. Sitting at a lunch table with someone who normally sits alone. Befriending the new kid. Finding something wonderful and special in everyone you see, and letting them know. Being a friend.

Imagine, if everyone remembered that feeling of care and friendship -- maybe we wouldn't have to live through the heartbreak of Sandy Hook again.

Read the full post here: Changing the World After Sandy Hook.