Originally posted December 18, 2012
Do you remember when you were 6 years old? What it was like? I for one, mostly remember moments. Moments in time of playing with building blocks here, or running around on the playground there. I remember moments of happiness but also obliviousness to confusion. Things go over your head, you sense the vibes of those around you, and know little of life or death other than that you’d rather keep living.
The Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting took the lives of 28 people, 20 of them kids, the rest faculty ranging from their late 20s to late 50s, and the shooter’s own mother. The shooter himself, one of the dead, was only 20 years old, and had attended the very school he fired upon. Of the 20 children killed, all of them were either the age of 6 or 7. What could those children have been thinking at the time? What happens to the children that survived as these moments become those moments they remember when they grow up? The mental state of these children is unfathomable to comprehend. While we could certainly imagine the worst, there have been reports of children like the daughter of Declan Procaccini, who gave an interview to CNN, who said, “I don’t know if my daughter is in a state of shock or not, but from what she told me she saw, she’s doing incredibly well.” At that age, how could you even process shock? These children are already asking when is this going to happen again, and how could anyone do this. How do you answer these questions?
Even as adults we still do not understand why people do some of the things they do. That is part of growing up, learning the world is bigger than yourself, and knowing the actions of others are not yours to control outright. We can affect each other, but not act through one another. It is this understanding that makes us no different from those children that were stuck in Sandy Hook elementary, where screams of terror gradually shifted to crying and quiet sobs. Some of those kids wanted to fight back, others wanted to protect each other. Still more were left unsure of what all was happening. As adults, would we have reacted any differently?
The adult victims risked their lives in order to protect the children at the elementary school. The fact that the adult victims, including the principal Dawn Hochsprung and teacher Victoria Soto died putting themselves physically in harms way to protect those students speaks volumes to not just their bravery, but the value we as a society place on our world’s youth. President Obama, who gave a powerful, considerate, emotionally charged speech at the Newtown vigil yesterday, perhaps said it best, “This is our first task, caring for our children. If we don’t get that right, we don’t get anything right. That’s how, as a society, we will be judged.” The children represent our future, the fruit of our love and compassion, an extension of ourselves. They are the natural key to our survival, across all disciplines and cultures, and it is the responsibility of the adult world we live in to protect those who need it most. You could not ask for more stirring action than what these adults took upon themselves, ultimately costing them their lives.
This has been a difficult post to write, and for as long as it has taken me to write even these few words, there is plenty left to be said about the developing story of this tragedy and its consequences that I’ll save for another time. There will be a lot of looming debates, discussions, and political banter over the subject of mental illness and gun control in this country (mental illness being the more important, more probable aspect to change), which will, and must be addressed in time. However, right now, in this moment, my thoughts travel to the lives of those children, the tragic moments the survivors will remember, and the dead who were denied the opportunity to ever look back some day. There are too many questions left to be answered, and that will come in time. For now, I feel lucky to be alive, to be a part of a world that can still be beautiful. I am lucky to remember when I was 6, do you?