My reflections on the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary

C{candle lit outside our front door on Friday night}

I first learned of the shooting tragedy on Friday morning as I was scrolling through my Facebook feed as a break from work before I left the house to go pick up the kids at Mom's Morning Out and drop my son off at preschool for the afternoon. You see, I work for a news media company, and they had posted a BREAKING alert. I skimmed over the details of the story which were sparse at the time given it was only 10:43am, said a quick prayer that everyone got out safely and posted my sentiment as a comment under the alert, before rushing out the door. I am embarrassed to admit now that at the time I thought it probably was just another gun incident and that the police would catch him and it would be over.

At least that is what I was hoping for.

It was on my mind the entire drive to school and yet as I walked my son into his classroom talking to another mother while he and his buddy held hands up ahead of us, my baby girl on my hip in my arms, my thoughts drifted to Christmas, the holiday party I was helping plan for the class as Room Mom, and the gift basket us parents were putting together as presents for our children's teachers. Us moms were so busy talking about our plans for the festivities in the week ahead, that I completely forgot to hug and kiss my son goodbye as he happily padded into his classroom, his safe learning environment filled with loving classmates and two teachers who put their soul into their work.

When I got home I put my daughter down for her nap and checked my laptop for an update. I was shocked and saddened to hear that so many innocent children and school staff were dead. I called my mom and turned on the TV to get a real-time, live update on the story.

It just kept getting worse.

Dear God. Twenty-eight lives are gone in an instant. Twenty innocent kids, plus seven adults and the gunman himself.

I have myself been grieving this weekend. Not because I knew any of the victims personally, but because of the sheer magnitude of this unthinkable tragedy. I've been struggling to organize my thoughts and feelings on the issues surrounding this awful event.

I took my family to church this morning seeking comfort from God, my priest, and my faith. I was not disappointed. Our priest offered a message which was soothing to me in that she described how God himself is just as shocked as we were to see his children in heaven so soon. She asked Him to wrap His arms around them and us as a nation, especially the parents of the children who died in Newtown, the first responders and the clergy and grief counselors who will be helping them cope with this tragedy. She talked about finding light in the darkness, just as there was darkness when Jesus was born and came into this world, we are finding ourselves in a very dark place right now but we must fight to find the light.

That light is what I keep searching for.

I've been very active on social media this weekend, both on my Twitter and personal Facebook pages. My emotions keep changing, from shock and disbelief to anger and despair to mourning and reflection. I feel we all have a right to our opinions, and we all should respect each others feelings.

I first expressed my feelings that he must have been sick. He had to have been clinically psychotic to commit such a horrible act of violence. I was angry at those people who knew him, thinking they should have seen signs. But it’s not fair for me to speculate. I should have been praying when instead I was typing out my frustrations. The facts will be uncovered in time. The time now is time I should be praying and respectfully recognizing the victims by reading about their stories when their families are ready to share.

Tonight I began thinking back on this post from June where I wrote about how I felt the night my husband and I went to the shooting range with my dad and brother. I remember the first thoughts that went through my head as I watched my brother and father pick up their guns to shoot at paper targets: 'Those are weapons that could kill a person. This isn't right. Life is too precious.' I took to my Facebook page and wrote that line I had heard before when I thought the root of the matter was that he was mentally ill to have committed such a gruesome act of violence: 'guns don't kill people, people kill people'. After thinking more about this, I have to disagree with myself. This weekend my feelings have grown even stronger in that I no longer believe it is okay to own a handgun. Handguns and hunting rifles have no place in a home. Guns should be in the hands of our military and police, not in the homes of regular people. Too many lives are at stake.

Lastly, twenty-eight is the number of people who died in the shooting. Twenty-seven lives were stolen, and one life was taken. Ever since the news broke that the shooter had taken his own life after viciously taking the lives of so many others, it was in the back of my mind to pray for him and his family too. Especially his brother who was mistakenly identified as the gunman since his brother was carrying the wrong identification. But it was too difficult for me to find the strength in the midst of such sadness. A blogger recently wrote about how the father of Emilie Parker, one of the victims, showed such gentle compassion towards the family of the shooter that it makes us wonder if we all could be so loving in the face of heavy grief. Lord, I hope I could.

I'm trying to find the light, and for me, writing this out helps a little. I'm planning on taking ten minutes each night for the next twenty-seven nights after tonight, to remember the victims by name and a candle that I light and sit quietly by for ten minutes, as suggested by one of my favorite bloggers. Tonight I spent time thinking about Emilie Parker and how proud she must be of her Daddy, smiling down from heaven on him and her two sisters. By Robbie's example, I'm adding one more night to pray for the shooter and his family, as difficult as this may be, I know that I need to show compassion in order to heal.

And after all of this praying and reflection, I'm going to take some action. I'm not sure how yet, but I'll figure that out. We can only change the world if we do it one step at a time.

Praying for Newtown.