THE BLOG

Bravery Beyond Words

12/17/2012 05:20 pm ET | Updated Feb 16, 2013

Like educators around the country, I feel that Sandy Hook Elementary is my school and its children are my children. I have signed every online petition I can to abolish automatic weapons. I have called Governor Snyder's office urging him not to sign the bill that would allow guns in schools, hospitals and churches, and I have followed wise commentators, such as Marian Wright Edelman and Bill Moyers as well as President Obama, whose call to change we must heed.

My response is as much a tribute to the children of Newtown as it is a gesture of hope for children everywhere. I imagine the faces of the children that the writers of InsideOut Literary Arts Project see every day in Detroit classrooms, children as full of promise as the 20 bright stars so cruelly taken from their loved ones last week.

I also think of the brave women who gave their lives for these children -- joyful, loving educators whose school represents the best U.S. education has to offer. That horrific morning opened with staff and students happily anticipating the weekend and basking in the glow of their fourth graders' concert the night before. Principal Hochsprung's Twitter feed reported on that and many other proud, happy moments. I especially loved her "Appy Hour" -- an early morning gathering of teachers swapping and coaching one another on the latest education apps before the start of school.

As an educator, and former classroom teacher, I've felt the "special" joy that Fridays usually bring. I shudder to think how quickly the morning turned to fear. I find it all the more frightening thinking about how little this nation does to defend children, and everyone else, from gun violence. We can do better. The appalling statistics on gun death in the U.S. compel us to demand more.

Other, more civilized, countries have addressed this threat. Japan has "virtually eliminated" shooting deaths. Australia, in response to similar massacres in the 1990s, now has some of the strictest gun control legislation in the world, with a 1996-1997 buyback that destroyed more than 631,000 firearms -- mostly semi-automatic rifles and shotguns. The public outcry following the 1996 Dunblane massacre in Scotland led to tighter gun controls in the UK.

The challenge is steep and mired in messy politics. But the fight is no less messy or difficult than the days ahead for the families of 12 girls, eight boys, and six courageous adults we now mourn. I'm hopeful that our moment has come. Until it arrives I'll continue to hold to the healing power of words. They may not solve, but words can be a balm during hard times. The great Yusef Komunyaaka's brief poem, "Rock Me, Mercy," composed the night of the killings and broadcast the next day on NPR, helps me to heal almost like nothing else.

We need a national day of mourning to honor these innocents and the thousands of others killed in gun violence every year. But in our calls for action, we must take care of our souls. After the events of 9/11, people overwhelmingly turned to poetry. At Ground Zero, 10 years later, in a ceremony titled "Remembrance and Reconciliation through Poetry," among the poets called on to speak, Marie Howe shared poems by children.

Like writers at InsideOut, Howe knew there is a magic that happens when children put pens to paper, an ignition of imagination, a great release of stars. Their poems show a purity of spirit and yearning for peace that can heal and save us all.

Shooting Stars

Shooting stars have a job
to do. They look
down at you and watch
your every move.

Shooting stars don't just
give you wishes. They
give you love that can
never be broken,

a love that has a special
bond as if it was your
brother or
sister.

They watch your
love and make
you express the love
that's in your heart.

Love will find a
way into your heart
and make a home
there. When love

finally moves in it makes
you shine deep inside.
It spreads
and finally your

whole entire body
shines.

Patty Lare, Grade 5
InsideOut Literary Arts Project
Detroit Public Schools

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