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Reflections on Sandy Hook Shooting: One year later

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A few years ago, my father, my daughter and I were featured in our local newspaper for a uniquely joyful coincidence—we all share the same birthday. That day, December 14th, is usually an extremely happy day for me as a mother and for us as a family. Three generations, sharing a birthday and me reminiscing each year about the morning in 2007, when I was on my hands and knees in labor, awaiting the birth of my precious second daughter- who decided to arrive 16 days early.Photo: orangectlive.com

December 14th, 2012, however, turned a normally celebratory day in our house into one of great sorrow for the world after a madman entered a school in Newtown, Conn., senselessly killing 20 young children and six adults. I almost felt ashamed to celebrate our birthdays that evening. I remember eating dinner at a restaurant with my family knowing that I had absolutely everything right at that table. Nothing else mattered.

The things that were a problem 24 hours before—a broken appliance or discrepancy on a credit card statement—seemed inconsequential and ridiculous. For the next several days, I did all that I could to contain my sadness, my anger, shielding my children from the television and the constant reminders that their safety can be threatened at any moment, anywhere.

The weeks following the Sandy Hook school shooting, the nation mourned. Even the most insensitive of us found it impossible to understand the irrational destruction of so many young lives; children barely old enough to read or tie their shoes and their heroic teachers who died trying to protect them. Like many other parents, my emotions ranged from pure shock, deep grief and an intense empathy because I had children roughly the same age as those young victims. I felt guilt and vulnerability at the same time. How dare I grieve, yet how could I not? Could my children be in harm’s way at their schools?

Knowing rationally there was nothing anyone could do, I tried my best to enjoy the holidays with my children. Like any sudden tragedy, the harsh reminder was there that no matter what wave of happiness and security we’re currently riding, it can all crash at any moment. It reminded me that the spilled juice at breakfast, scratches on the hardwood floor and little insignificant annoyances that occur each day don’t matter an ounce. Yes, all parents know this, but some days we just don’t see the incredible gifts we have right in front of us.

A year later, I still can’t quite get past it, re-living the memory of last year’s birthdays with a knot in my stomach, in disbelief that something this horrific could happen on a day that usually gives us such joy. But I’m just one parent. The Sandy Hook massacre has left an indelible mark on our souls, so I can barely imagine the pain of those families directly affected.  

Evil can’t teach us anything, but we can still have faith in humanity. Sandy Hook taught us that people are genuinely good, caring and protecting, as evidenced from the nation’s outpouring of love and support following this tragedy. I think it’s safe to say that many parents paused from our busy lives. We played more with our children. We read one more story before bed. We listened more attentively when we used to say ‘in a minute’. And, most of all, we understood that we need to enjoy every second we’re given with the people who matter most to us.

An online memorial to the victims has been set up at mysandyhookfamily.org. Please read about them here, where their memory can be kept alive.

Email her at jsherwin73@gmail.com  and followe her on Twitter @JuliaSherwinPoP.  You can also follow her other parenting articles at juliasherwin.wordpress.com.

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Photo: orangectlive.com