Dear parents, spouses, brothers, sisters, friends... and every person who loved someone killed at Sandy Hook School on December 14th,
We want you to know that you are not alone in your pain.
This town of people who are your neighbors and friends, perhaps mere acquaintances or simply strangers: we hold a piece of your sadness with us all the time.
When we heard the news of a shooting, we wondered if it was our child's school, or maybe the classrooms of the teachers we knew. We wondered if the horror was touching our family and friends. Time stopped as we waited to learn whether our loved ones were affected, scared, hurt... dead. Most of us escaped the news we feared most, and felt we couldn't face.
But that most terrible and tragic news became your reality. This fact has never left our understanding. The truth shocked us, numbed our brains and tore at our insides. We cried for you, and cried and cried because that was all some of us could do. We stared at the walls while the dishes and mail piled up around us. Some of us had to do something: start a fund, write a tear-stained card, cook you a dinner you couldn't eat. We hurt for you. We hurt with you.
We realize that we can't truly know how you feel. But we can imagine, and many of us do. Because we live among you; if only in the sense that you occupy our thoughts, and knowledge of your pain reaches into the deepest wells of our compassion. Days after it happened, we pictured the gifts you might have set aside for someone who, as it turned out, would never open them. Later we wondered what young siblings knew, and how their needs might seem impossible to fulfill. Now we picture the daily ache that never subsides. The phone calls and footfalls you wait for that never come.
We imagine ourselves in your position and think about what we might be doing in your place: crying in the dark most nights, and smiling through a cracked heart some days. Always hurting from the knowledge of what happened that day, yearning daily for that person's touch and smile... and searching but never finding a way to make it okay.
As time passes and monthly markers come and go, we suppose that it hasn't gotten better -- it's just been more time since you've held and talked with the person you love. Each step forward you take must feel like a step away from them. Each layer of understanding you peel back must reveal another level of pain. Don't you ask: how could this be happening? Don't you curse the air and fleetingly conspire to turn time back? To reach into the ether and somehow find them again? We wonder. Because sometimes we wish that too.
We have seen courage and strength from you that inspires us. Whether you have been private in your grief, or shared it with others. Seeing you make the choice to engage in life is humbling. We try to follow your lead. We hope to offer you a hand in the darkness, if given the chance.
Looking at photographs of your precious children and reading their stories and descriptions, we come to think of them a little bit as our town's kids. And we miss them too, even if we never knew them in life. The women who were stolen away come to life for us as we learn about the people they were, and see the love and pain in your eyes. This one was funny, that one was remarkably positive, another had a breathtaking smile. Most importantly, they deserved to carry on their lives. They all did. And we join you in keeping them with us still, however we can.
Every child and every woman who was killed on that day is still a member of our community. Some of us knew them well, loved them even. Many of us have our own memories that we hold close, even if we haven't shared them with you. Some of us still feel their presence. We hope you do too.
Of course, we can't take your pain away. But please know that so many of us want to. Though we suffer too, we're aware that it is only a small fraction of hurt compared with yours. So we hold each of you in our thoughts and in our hearts because that's something we can do. And we tell you the pure and simple truth: that we too have been grieving since that awful day, and that we are so very, very sorry for your loss.