Monday, December 24, 2012

Love Wins

On Sunday, I took a drive to Sandy Hook to see the memorials. My husband and I decided to take separate trips. Big Girl was too emotional and did not want to see it. Despite having Christmas tasks to finish, I hopped in the car Sunday morning to take the 20-minute drive and see it first-hand. I felt compelled to visit before it all disappears, which is said to be happening this week.

Seashells with victims name on them under wreaths for each life lost.
I was very conflicted on whether or not I "should" do this. Some consider it a morbid act, a wrong thing to do. It is not a tourist attraction -- yet it is.

Prayers to heaven fill the red bowl.
But in the end, I am completely at peace with my decision to go see it all -- "peace" being the key word. I felt so full of peace after leaving Sandy Hook that morning. So grateful that I had witnessed what I had witnessed. It is very hard to put into words how incredibly moving the memorials are. It is nothing like I have ever experienced in my life.

There are many small memorials around various sites in Newtown, but the primary two spots are in the village of Sandy Hook, as well as the entrance to the Sandy Hook School. It was very easy to find a parking spot in the village and walk to both sites.

The memorials fill both sides of the street in the village of Sandy Hook.
It is really unbelievable how much there is left there in tribute.
There are so many people doing the same thing -- so many people! -- yet it was incredibly quiet. So very, very quiet. The loudest noises are the cars driving by. It is absolutely stunning how silent all the people are. Every now and then you hear a child's voice ask a question to a parent, but other than that, it's still, silent, just a whisper of "excuse me" as people try to navigate around others, with cell phones, taking pictures. Many carry flowers, gifts, and leave them among the hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of things lining the streets. Tents are everywhere to protect the items, keeping the candles lit and the stuffed animals and paper ornaments from becoming two soggy from earlier rains this week.

So many things struck me. One was the numerous tributes paid in Christmas cookies. Boxes of them, bags with names on them, and even elaborate gingerbread houses set up around the memorial. It was said that on the day of the shooting, parents were to have made gingerbread houses with some of the little lives lost in their classrooms. Clearly that moment never happened. And clearly many felt the need to leave a gingerbread house because of this. I don't think I could ever look at a gingerbread house the same way again.

There are signs from all over country, declaring other communities' support for the town and the tragedy. There are numerous angels, Christmas ornaments, letters, notes, candles, stuffed animals, toys, school supplies, crosses... It goes on. And on. And on. And flowers...

It takes your breath away. During my visit, I was pretty good at not getting too emotional -- or so I thought. After walking through the endless displays in the village, I walked up the road to the site of the school. The shoulder of the road is blocked off for pedestrians; there are so many walking the same path that the police -- who are everywhere -- clearly are trying to allow visitors a safe journey down the road.

Walking from the village to the school.
When the tents come into view, it becomes abundantly clear that this is the site -- the entrance to the school where so many lives perished. And then you see the Christmas trees:

One after another, after another, after another,
and the enormity of all is very real. 
A tree for every person lost. It is unfathomable.

The trees have dozens and dozens of ornaments on them left by mourners. More flowers and notes and candles and stuffed animals are on the ground. The display goes on and on, curving into the road which leads to the school.

Seeing this was so incredibly moving, tragic, beautiful... It is just incredible the sheer amount of love that radiates from these exhibits. Nothing is valuable, yet everything is place with such love by someone, from somewhere, from around the town, state, world... You feel it, and you feel it deeply. A soggy teddy bear, a rose, a paper angel. Someone left these for someone lost, and it stuns the soul when you realize that the tragedy in a neighboring town is causing the world to weep.

Memorials have cropped up at every tragic event: Sept. 11th, Princess Diana's death... I never personally witnessed those, but I am sure that the feelings are likely the same. I do not know if Sandy Hook is so personal to me because it is so geographically close; if it hits home because I have three little ones; or because I volunteer in the schools; or how the insaneness of it all just makes one feel no place is sacred.

The little LEGO model made me think of my own LEGO-loving kids.
Whatever it is, it will be very hard to ever, ever forget. I choose not to forget. I hope not to forget. And I hope that the world feels the same because only good should be the result of an evil we could not prevent.

Love should win. Love will win. Love has won. Love wins.

The memorials will be removed next week. The town will recycle them into "soil" to be used in a permanent memorial. I know many of you live far away, unable to see these first-hand. I hope, that in some small way, this blog post of my own visit, will give you some comfort. Some hope. Some love. 

Tonight, share the love.
Pay tribute to Sandy Hook by leaving 
a candle lit on your front steps, front walk or driveway. 
Help light up the night for heaven's angels. 
Merry Christmas!

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