I remember the joy I felt when each of my children was born, and I can’t imagine that happiness being stripped away as violently as it was for the parents whose children were murdered at a Connecticut school yesterday.
It’s taken me 24 hours to absorb the horror of what happened when a gunman stormed into Sandy Hook Elementary School and slaughtered 26 people, including 20 children. I don’t pretend to know the depths of the parents’ grief. Nor do I know when the prayers I’ve lifted up will relieve even a scintilla of their pain.
As a father, however, I do know this: Those parents loved their children enough to send them to a school they believed was safe. But until our society makes a concerted effort to learn why such shootings continue to occur, none of us is safe. Not in the city or the suburbs. Not in a shopping mall or in a movie theater. Not even in an elementary school where children learn and play.
That’s a difficult reality to accept, but it’s a truth that’s been proven time and again, often by a gunman and his bullets.
Americans have come together to do great things in the past. Certainly, we can come together for our children.
It won’t be easy. Our country is divided along many fault lines: liberal and conservative; rich and poor; religious and secular. These divisions rise to the surface when tragedies like yesterday’s occur, and our reaction is painfully predictable.
We sit stunned at first. We mourn the lost. We offer comfort to the families. Then we retreat to our comfort zones to point fingers and cast blame. We angrily shout while refusing to listen. We cluck our tongues while spouting opinions. We manipulate facts to support our preconceived notions.
But at a time like this, when so many parents have lost their children to senseless violence, I hope that we can rise above the divisions. This is not a time for pro-gun or anti-gun arguments. It’s not a time for political posturing. It’s not a time for studies, or panels, or commissions, or any of the other mechanisms that make a great show of doing nothing.
This is a time for us to come together. If not for ourselves, then for our children, because without them, our country has no future.
If we can join forces to wage war, then we can come together to win peace. If we can form alliances to defend our allies, then we can unify to protect our children.
As the father of children in elementary school, I can’t imagine losing the very people who mean the most to me. The people I held in my arms just moments after they were born; the people whose first steps I witnessed; the people who carry my hopes in their little hands.
I’m sure the parents who lost children yesterday hope their deaths won’t be in vain. If this tragedy brings us together to prevent the scourge of mass shootings, perhaps they won’t have to be.