Change.

Our country experienced a severe tragedy on Friday, another severe tragedy. I regretfully say that the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT, didn’t hit me at first. I got word of the event on my long drive home from school after just completing exams. I was anxious to be home with my parents, sleep in my cozy bed, and indulge in Dad’s home cooking. I couldn’t imagine the motive of shooting innocent children and teachers, and therefore couldn’t comprehend the impact of this event. It wasn’t until this morning, a conversation with my mom, that the weight began to settle in. As a passionate public educator herself she said it best as she stated that ‘it is so easy to get desensitized by tragedies like this, they are becoming too frequent, four in four years’. I was desensitized, removed from the event, as I tried to empathize with the occurrence I couldn’t grasp the overwhelming significance, not with the spirit of Christmas in the air, with shopping to still be done.

I watched the interfaith vigil with my parents, hearing the prayers of the religions of our country, and watching as our President addressed the country in this time of need. It wasn’t until this moment as he began by addressing the crowd gathered, the families, mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters, and all the sudden it hit me. This was a horrible, freak, incident that could have happened anywhere, to any of us, it could have been my mother, father or sister, it could have been me. It sunk in, this beautiful, perfect town and neighborhood elementary school was attacked. These families lost children, these children lost lives. They won’t get to experience the joys driving a car for the first time, or falling in love, or looking forward to relaxing at home after exams. They won’t get to feel the true powerful emotions life evokes of heartbreak and anger and accomplishment. They lost their innate sense of security.With Christmas just around the corner these families are left with gaps, holes in their hearts in a time where giving and celebration are cherished the most. These families are forced to endure the incredible pain of loss. This could have happened anywhere.

Through this great tragedy we gained heroes. We often hope that in times of trial that we will step up, that we will have enough courage to do what is right and worthy. These six adults never questioned themselves; they protected their students because they were their own children.

I’m humbled, encouraged, bewildered, shocked, and heartbroken. This isn’t a culture I am proud of, a culture where we turn to guns to solve problems, where we look to kill to solve problems. “These tragedies must end. And to end them, we must change,” stated President Obama. We must change the way we think, the way we problem solve, the way we communicate. We must think beyond ourselves. I am a citizen of Asheville, of North Carolina, of the United States, of the world. We must realized that our actions directly or indirectly affect others. We must unite, we must connect, we must come together not just today but everyday. We must remember Sandy Hook Elementary School and the tragic lives lost not just this week but for the rest of our lives. We must learn from our actions and our inaction. We must connect to others, reach out to others. We must change, so we don’t repeat our mistakes, so we don’t begin to accept our mistakes.

“There’s only one thing we can be sure of, and that is the love that we have — for our children, for our families, for each other. The warmth of a small child’s embrace — that is true. The memories we have of them, the joy that they bring, the wonder we see through their eyes, that fierce and boundless love we feel for them, a love that takes us out of ourselves, and binds us to something larger — we know that’s what matters. We know we’re always doing right when we’re taking care of them, when we’re teaching them well, when we’re showing acts of kindness. We don’t go wrong when we do that.”

– President Barack Obama addressing Newtown, CT. 12/16/2012.

Forever in our hearts and prayers are the 26 brave lives lost in the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT, 12/14/2012.

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