They were aspiring actresses, musicians, veterinarians and athletes. They were amazing educators, the kind who dedicated their lives to helping children, and in some cases, died trying to protect them.
The 26 people killed by a gunman a year ago Saturday inside Sandy Hook Elementary School inspired all of us.
No act of kindness or piece of legislation will bring any of them back. But as we commemorate the one-year anniversary of their deaths, it’s important to reflect on what they taught all of us, and how we as a state and nation can move forward.
Any homicide anywhere is a tragedy, but there’s something particularly sad about mass shootings at schools, and something especially heartbreaking about the one that took place last Dec. 14 because it took place at an elementary school.
None of the students killed were older than 7. The six educators killed were doing some of the most important work anyone in America does: Nurturing young people in their formative years.
The past year, in Newtown, in Connecticut, and in some respects, in America, has been defined by the shootings’ aftermath in many ways.
Political battles are playing out in Hartford, in Washington, and in state capitals throughout the country over gun safety and to lesser degrees, school security and mental health. The past year has been divisive in some ways, and the next year likely will be as well.
Saturday is a day of somber remembrance, not of rallying for any particular policy solution. But a year after Sandy Hook, it’s well worth making this simple plea to policymakers everywhere, whether they’re on local school boards or in Congress: Do not forget what happened in Newtown on Dec. 14, 2012.
Do not forget Charlotte Bacon, Daniel Barden, Rachel Davino, Olivia Rose Engel, Josephine Gay, Ana Grace Marquez-Greene, Dylan Hockley, Dawn Hochsprung, Madeline Hsu, Catherine Hubbard, Chase Kowalski, Jesse Lewis, James Mattioli, Grace McDonnell, Anne Marie Murphy, Emilie Parker, Jack Pinto, Noah Pozner, Caroline Previdi, Jessica Rikos, Avielle Richman, Lauren Rousseau, Mary Sherlach, Victoria Soto, Benjamin Wheeler or Allison Wyatt.
Do not forget their smiles. Do not forget the joy they brought to their families. Do not forget the promising futures that all of them had. Do not forget the overwhelming grief that their families are still going through. And do not accept mass shootings like the one in Newtown as a fact of life that cannot be prevented.
That was part of the message President Obama delivered at an interfaith vigil two days after the shootings.
Obama, in one of the most important speeches of his presidency, asked an important question: "Can we honestly say that we’re doing enough to keep our children -- all of them -- safe from harm?"
The short answer is that we’re not.
The ways we can change that are complicated. Saturday, like the night last year when Obama delivered his speech, was not a day to analyze every possible solution.
It was a day, however, to reflect on another theme Obama touched on that night in Newtown.
"There’s only one thing we can be sure of, and that is the love that we have," he said, "for our children, for our families, for each other. The warmth of a small child’s embrace -- that is true. The memories we have of them, the joy that they bring, the wonder we see through their eyes, that fierce and boundless love we feel for them, a love that takes us out of ourselves, and binds us to something larger -- we know that’s what matters."
~New Haven Register