with heavy hearts, we greet the day.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

When I was in high school, our chamber choir sang a song my senior year entitled "Good Night, Dear Heart." It was based off the eulogy Mark Twain wrote for his daughter, who died at the age of 24. It just seems...appropriate for everything that is happening.

Warm summer sun,
shine brightly here.
Warm, Southern wind,
blow softly here.
Green sode above,
lie light, lie light.
Good night, dear heart;
good night, good night.

It was Friday morning.

I woke up early, in anticipation to do my daily morning devotion, check-out a few residents from the hall, and take care of my last final before making preparations to come home the next day. I was going to a Christmas party that evening. I got ready for the day, sat down at my desk with a cup of coffee, my bible, and my journal. I spent 20 minutes, per usual, reading a psalm and journaling about the semester coming to an end. My pen wrote smoothly over the clear pages. Everything was normal.

It wasn't until after I washed out my coffee mug, and opened my laptop that I read the yellow banner on Yahoo!'s homepage. Announcing a school shooting in Connecticut. And that was it. Nothing about a death toll. Nothing about children. Nothing about what it would turn into. Just, a school shooting. Slightly out of the ordinary...but life still felt normal.

I went about the day, and didn't hear anything else of it. It wasn't until noon, as I was sitting in my last final as the teacher passed out our exams that I heard a voice a few seats over. "Did you hear about the school shooting? An elementary school. Children. They're dead. It's horrible." I finished my exam, went back to my room, and began reading the CNN coverage of the shooting. When the details began emerging, I began to realize that this was no "normal" school shooting. One never is, but so many go passed unnoticed, so many don't make the national news. This one did. And it did not go unnoticed.

I watched the death toll rise as the day continued. As Saturday arrived and the ages of the victims began to be revealed. As what happened inside that school began to materialize to the rest of us. No one I encountered talked about it. We said a prayer in our last staff meeting, but no one spoke anything of it afterwards. I snagged a copy of the Santa Barbara Independent that morning. The headline read, "SLAUGHTER OF THE INNOCENTS." I felt a little sick in my stomach as I folded it and tucked it into my backpack. I read an online article from The Onion that somehow captured how I was feeling perfectly: "Fuck Everything, Nation Reports."

I came home to our television turned onto CNN, where my parents had been watching the news coverage of the shooting since it happened. My parents gave me hug, a little tighter than normal, and said "I love you," a little more meaningful than normal. They get to have me home for Christmas. Twenty families in Connecticut won't be able to have that this year.

I have been watching news coverage since I've been home, watching the story unfold further. Hearing President Obama adress our nation, hear CT's chief medical examiner explain how he had finished 7 of the 20 child autopsies, watching pray services and candle light vigils. I watch with a heavy heart, overwhelmed with absolutely everything.

What the hell happened that morning? I'm sorry, but why the hell does this stuff have to happen? The frustration comes out of not knowing. Of not knowing why people kill other people. Why evil seems so present in today's age. Why someone would consider killing another person, killing a child. Someone who hasn't done anything wrong. Someone with their whole life ahead of them. Someone who will be buried in a tiny casket, a parent who has to put their child 6 feet under, way too soon. A shooter who is the same age as me.

Last Thursday before finals week, our Resident Life staff met at Santa Barbara cemetery for our final class together. We talked about the fragility of life, the hope we have after death, and how we remember those who have come before us. We walked around the graveyard, taking note of what we say in the headstones and memorials. I walked with Joseph, a friend a fellow Armington RA. We passed by numerous headstones, but one caught my eye. A smiling blond, blue-eyed girl stared up at me from a headstone. I read the name, and wondered why a photo of a little girl was on her mother's headstone. And then read the dates, and realized it was her. A six year old girl, a life gone too soon.

While debriefing the experience, I talked about her, and how it caught my eye. Because it didn't seem like she had a chance to live. She didn't get to grow up. She didn't get to experience the awkwardness of junior high, the joys of high school, getting into her dream college, meeting the love of her life, growing old and having children of her own. She was robbed of so much that I have experienced. That I will probably experience in the future. And to think there are twenty children in Connecticut that won't get the same.

Two little boys were walking through a Holocaust museum. Afterwards, one of them said, referring to the Nazis, "We need to make sure they never do that to anyone ever again." The other boy looked up and said, "We need to make sure no one ever does that to anyone ever again."

I want to do more than update my facebook status to say, "praying for the families in CT." I want to do more than support a fundraiser or mail a letter. I want to make sure this never happens to anyone ever again. I want to make sure children don't have to fear a gunman in their schools. In their homes. In their shopping malls, their McDonalds, their parks and their grocery stores. I don't want the world to live in fear of another human being. I don't want us to find this "normal." I want society to understand that we are not meant to live this way. To live in fear of our brothers and sisters. To allow circumstances to define how we view other humans. To turn a tragedy into a debate over gun control. We are meant for so much more than this.

With heavy hearts, we greet the day.

With heavy hearts we will greet this holiday season, realizing we have a lot more than we think we do to be thankful for. We will close the chapter on 2012 with the good and the bad, knowing that although we cannot keep every person in this world safe, there is a greater God who will continue to bring about his plan to redeem his creation. Evil exists, but good does as well. Something beautiful will be born out of this tragedy, even if it does not come for a while.

Westmontsters, do yourself a favor.

Go up to your parents, give them a hug. Tell them you love them. And mean it. Make sure they know. Make sure they realize it. Even if they don't show it, they are so thankful that you are home safe for the holidays.

And to the twenty beautiful children and seven adults who are no longer with us,
Good night, dear hearts. Good night.

Respectfully submitted,