How Can We Honor Lives Lost at Sandy Hook Elementary School?

Sandy Hook prayer vigilOur heartfelt prayers go out to everyone impacted by the unimaginable events that took place at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, this past Friday.

We are shocked and horrified.  In what should be a joyous time of year, we were savagely reminded that peace is never a given, not even in our schools.

As I wrote to our students in the College of Education last evening about this gruesome episode, I found myself repeatedly choking up.  But the full gravity of the tragedy struck me this morning when I joined other parents at our daughters’ dance studio where we had been invited to observe one of their classes.  I watched the 10 young girls, aged 6 through 8, perform with great interest, appreciation, and pride — when suddenly IT hit me.

The image of twice as many children swirling before me flashed across my mind, and then without any warning — THEY WERE GONE — just like THAT.   The chill of envisioning that empty dance floor completely overcame me.  In that instant I felt an utterly terrifying vacating of hundreds of dreams and triumphs, slipping away into absolute nothingness.  The children disintegrated instantaneously right before my eyes.  As you might imagine, it took me several minutes to regain my composure, and I took the experience as a call to write to our Marquette Educator audience about the latest incomprehensible chapter in our nation’s history.

As an educator, I struggle to find words that might somehow pay proper tribute to the lives of the innocent school children, their teachers, and the principal who were sacrificed so pointlessly.  No one could have anticipated such violence in a school setting believed to be perfectly safe.  I feel deep sorrow for the families of all the victims, regardless of their age, and I have no doubt that the adults who lost their lives did so heroically, protecting their students at all costs.

As a parent, I continue to find myself vainly fighting back tears of profound grief for the mothers, fathers, and guardians of the little ones. I shudder to think what I would do to bear the incredible pain of losing my own precious child.  And my sympathy extends to the brothers and sisters, grandmothers and grandfathers, aunts and uncles, cousins, friends, and all those who shared loving relationships with these children.

In my 60 years on this planet, I’ve found nothing sadder than a young life cut far too short.  How do we reconcile fully 20 of them being taken away so abruptly by a senseless, merciless act of selfishness and cowardice?  The untimely demise of these tiny gifts of God makes no sense whatsoever, so there is probably little point, or therapeutic value, in trying to grasp how something so unfathomable could actually happen.

But it has.

And now we must all see our way fit to endure it as best we can and to help in whatever ways may be possible.  In harsh times like these, even small gestures matter immensely, so we should all be thinking about how we might respond to this tragedy.

More than likely, the best we parents can do is to hold our children closely and tell them they are loved.  And the best we educators can do will most likely be to honor the departed souls with a renewed commitment to our profession and to those we serve.

In the end, educators or not, all of us with children should regard them as the most priceless gifts we’ll ever receive, which is why the instrumental work of teachers, counselors, administrators and all school personnel in their development is so vitally important.

In closing, I dearly wish I had at my disposal words of sufficient wisdom and sensitivity to help reassure and console readers.  If I did, I would share them with you right now.

Newtown flag at half mastInstead I will simply call for your continuing prayers on behalf of all those suffering as a result of this day of infamy and ask you to summon your reverence for the sanctity of all the wonderful things that happen in schools across our nation every day.


2 Responses to “How Can We Honor Lives Lost at Sandy Hook Elementary School?”

  1. 1 Martin Scanlan December 16, 2012 at 8:22 pm

    Here’s a valuable resource for educators and parents in grappling with the tragedy:


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