The losses have become too great to bear.
The losses resulting from the December 14th shooting in Newtown, Connecticut are losses felt by the entire country, perhaps even by the entire world. Of course, the losses felt by the family members directly impacted by this horrific event are of an entirely different and unimaginable magnitude, but the losses none-the-less are felt by the rest of us as well.
All of our hearts have taken a direct hit this time.
I'm sharing my thoughts on this massacre because like everyone else, I feel tremendous sadness and anger.
In spite of the horror, sadness and anger I also feel hopeful. I have to.
I feel hopeful that finally something might change because the losses have become too great to bear.
As an educator, parent and human being, mostly I'm incredibly sad.
When I first learned of this shooting, my heart broke.
When I later learned the specifics about the young lives lost, my heart broke all over again.
When lives lost in a senseless massacre include those of young children only six and seven years old, there is another whole level of darkness to the losses. The losses have become to great to bear.
As a former educator of young children myself, this attack felt very personal.
I know from first-hand experience what it's like to be in charge of a classroom of elementary-age children. The enormous responsibility I felt when entrusted with the greatest treasures of parents, their children, is one I took very seriously every single time I stepped into a classroom. All teachers do. There is an incredible bond of trust that exists. Safety of children is always first and foremost in the minds of educators.
When I heard the account of one first grade teacher describing how she huddled together with her students in the bathroom while hearing and attempting to block out the noise of gunshots, it brought me to tears. When I learned how another first grade teacher shielded her students with her own body as she tried to protect them from gunfire, my heart broke for her family. That young teacher died protecting her students. I can't begin to imagine the terror she must have felt in those moments of anguish as she tried to figure out what she should do. Saying she was a hero isn't enough, not even close.
The heartbreak and sadness of her family and of all the families directly impacted by this shooting rampage is too much for the rest of us to even comprehend. And yet, we must try to do just that.
On top of the sadness, I also feel angry.
I'm angry about mass killings in schools, movie theaters, shopping malls and places of worship. I'm angry how we seem to be getting used to hearing about such things. I'm angry about how we seem to get riled up for a week or two about such news, but then seem to forget.
I'm angry about how such a thing could happen in an elementary school.
I want answers to questions; questions like these:
- How many lives must be lost to gun violence before we get serious about putting stricter safety (it's not about control, it's about safety) restrictions in place?
- Isn't there some kind of reasonable action lawmakers and other leaders can agree upon that might make even a small difference?
- If this is also a mental health issue, why don't we place more emphasis and spend more dollars on mental health care instead of making cuts to it?
- Does the right to bear any kind of weapon outweigh the right a child has to grow up?
- And why are some Americans so obsessed with retaining the right to own every kind of gun anyway?
I am not anti-gun. I do support the Second Amendment, but I have to ask, does anyone outside of military personnel or law enforcement really need to own an assault-type weapon?
I don't think so.
These are just a few of the important questions that I hope will be asked over and over again in the coming days.
Finally, in spite of all the sadness and anger, I do feel slightly hopeful.
I feel hopeful because of President Obama's statement the day of the shooting. I feel hopeful because of the work of Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy, Dianne Feinstein and many others. I feel hopeful because of organizations like the Brady Campaign, New Yorkers Against Gun Violence and others. I feel hopeful because I believe lawmakers, in fact all of us, want to do the right thing. I feel hopeful because grassroots movements can and do make a difference. I feel hopeful because all parents want their children to grow up.
I feel hopeful because I don't want to feel hopeless.
I feel hopeful because finally, the losses have become too great to bear.
Of course, every loss has always been too great, but I believe now as a nation we are finally ready to take meaningful action in order to at least try to prevent more of them.
Can we prevent all losses? Of course not. But we can take steps that might make a difference. We must. Our children deserve more. We all do.
It's past time.
Because the losses have become too great to bear.
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