|Reflections. Copyright 2012. All rights reserved. Gina F. Rubel.
Friday, December 14, 2012 is a day that Americans will remember for a lifetime if not for many generations to come. A day when the nation's heroes became 20 innocent children and seven elementary school educators and administrators – all of whom felt safe and secure when they arrived at school that morning. Today we ask ourselves, "How did this happen and why?" "Who is to blame?" "How do we stop this from ever happening again?" We have no real answers.
Like most parents, immediately following the news that there was a massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT, all I wanted to do was to see our children. My husband called to tell me what he had heard on the news as he was driving home. His immediate thought was to protect our nine-year-old son from hearing the news on television so that we could deliver the horrible message in the gentlest way possible. And so we did. I then called our daughter who was visiting with a friend and told her that I needed her to come home. And so she did. That night I held them both a little tighter and both a little longer. And our parents called us just to say, "I love you."
The following Monday, our children had the blessing to go back to school but this time with the knowledge of the terrible tragedy that had occurred just three days prior. As I kissed our son and said "I love you" in front of the school, all I could ask of God was to keep him and all others safe. Then I drove past my daughter's middle school and asked God to keep her and everyone in the school safe as tears began to fall once again with the reality of Dec. 14th living in a nation of lost innocence.
A friend of mine had this to say: "I drove by my son's school today and my heart stopped. . . . I lost my breath, then I stopped. . . . I took a moment to thank God that it was not his school, in our town, on some random Friday, for some un-godly reason."
I thanked God for all the same things. But as I contemplate this horrible tragedy, it is ever apparent that it did happen in "our town" because those children have relatives who are our friends. Those heroes and their families are our neighbors. We live here in America where the national debates center around funding cuts in education, unemployment and healthcare, gun control, and rising taxes –all of which affect our personal safety physically, emotionally, mentally and financially. And we ask, "How did this happen and why?" We have no answers.
As a child, I remember my mother talking about where she was when Kennedy was assassinated. She recalled how she found out about the tragedy, how the nation came to a stop, how the nation mourned, and how all eyes turned to the television to say goodbye. They asked, "How did this happen and why?"
On January 28, 1986, when I was in 11th grade in Catholic school, I remember sitting in our homeroom watching the launch of the Space Shuttle Challenger when all of a sudden it went from being an epic launch to a national disaster. The 30 or so young ladies and our teacher all began to cry when we understood that we had just witnessed the loss of innocent lives. We asked, "How did this happen and why?"
On September 11, 2001, I was sitting at my desk in work when my father called and told me that a plane had hit the World Trade Center. I turned on the news and witnessed the impact of the second plane, the uncertainty of the national news media as to what could be happening, the gut feeling that this was terrorism and that America had lost its innocence, and the fact that I had to leave the office (despite my boss's missive that we had work to do) to pick up our daughter. I had to go home to be with my family. As we cried, we asked, "How did this happen and why?"
And as the incidents of the Columbine High School massacre unfolded in April 1999 and the stories of the Aurora, Colorado Movie Theater massacre unfolded earlier this year, we all asked ourselves, "How did this happen and why?"
And still, we have no answers. In fact, we may never have real answers. We may argue, debate, and fight about the "issues." We may read missive after missive in the media and on social media. We may hear people pontificate about the right and wrong answer. But yet, we will never learn absolute truth in this lifetime.
What we do have is the knowledge that each moment of life is precious and sacred. We are privileged to live in America where we have freedoms of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Where we have the Constitution and its Amendments to protect us from ourselves and our government. Where we can debate issues openly without the fear of punishment. Where we can love who we wish and live how we choose. Where we can fight for equal rights for all. Where food is plentiful and education is free. We may never have the answers to "How did this happen and why?" but we must also never forget what happened in Newtown, CT.
So today, let us all curb our judgment and anger towards others, listen a little bit harder even if we disagree, thank God for what we do have, pray for all those directly affected by last week's horrible tragedies, and vow to make a difference in our communities which were all truly affected* by the loss of lives and innocence on Dec. 14, 2012.
*To everyone directly affected by the Sandy Hook Elementary School Massacre I send my heartfelt prayers – for the children are angels and the adults are true heroes. May you find peace someday, somehow. Godspeed.