Friday, December 21, 2012

Waiting for New Year

Day 3's morning newspaper. Three pages of obituaries for lives lost. Heartbreaking.
It Day 7. One week.

I have tried and stopped, and written and deleted, for days now. I find it hard to say anything that will be worthy of honoring those lost in the Sandy Hook tragedy. The past week has been engulfed with immeasurable sadness. I know the feeling resonates across the country. As news trickles in, we are given stories of heartache, stories of bravery, sweet stories of little children. It's the stories that get me. I love them, every sweet detail. I hate them because we are hearing about lives lost, little ones lost days before the most-anticipated holiday of the year who leave behind grieving families. I cherish them because they inspire me to be a better person and honor those angels.

There are so many other stories too. I recently read a story about Gene Rosen, a retired man who lives near Sandy Hook School and found six children sitting near the edge of his driveway Friday morning. The children fled the classroom of slain teacher Victoria Soto in the hail of gunfire and ran out of the school. A bus driver was standing over them. Rosen brought them in his house, gave them stuffed animals and juice and called their parents.

Pies with initials of lives lost,
made by volunteer bakers in New Jersey.
Author Beth Howard, who penned the book "Making Piece: A Memoir of Love, Loss & Pie," headed to Connecticut as to hand out slices of pie in the community. Howard, who suffered her own loss, just decided to leave her home -- the American Gothic house in Iowa -- and hop in her RV to drive to the East Coast. She, and numerous volunteers, have baked hundreds of pies in New Jersey to bring here, and then later baked more in CT. It is her way of healing, albeit with comfort food. You can read more about Howard at The World Needs More Pie. (There has been some question, among my journalism friends who witness the pie-giveaway in Newtown, of whether this was self-promotion, or "grief tourism." I'd like to think it wasn't, but since I'm mentioning her, I thought I would mention it.)

Since we focus on twins often on this blog, I would remiss if I didn't mention little Noah Pozner. Noah perished at Sandy Hook leaves behind a twin sister, who escaped the tragedy because she was in another classroom. Twiniversity wanted to honor this little boy, and managed to raise more than $5,000 in a single day via social media, which will be used to plant a tree in Central Park. A generous benefactor matched the donation, and now two trees will be planted side-by-side in the park.

One of the adults who perished has a grandson who happens to be in an after-school club I run at my daughter's school. It is devastating to hear these connections to lives lost, day after day, during this past week. Just when you think what happened 20 minutes away can't get any closer, it does. Friends going to funerals. A victim buried in my hometown this morning. A neighbor calling to watch her daughter when she gets off the bus, because the parent is stuck in Newtown for a funeral. Day, after day, the much less than six-degrees-of-separation are amplified.

Sandy Hook has become the daily normal in our lives in CT, and I wonder if it is the same across the country. Countless messages about school security from administrators, actual threats and more lockdowns, calls to add armed guards and bulletproof glass to schools; requests to form a human chain to prevent a crazed group of so-called religious individuals from picketing at local funerals. There are also many grass-roots efforts to help, whether it is to donate money or items or meals or create tributes.

I am very conflicted by some of this, and have decided that perhaps the greatest way to help is to follow the 26 Acts of Kindness movement: Perform 26 acts of kindness in honor of each of the lives lost. It doesn't have to be donating -- money is pouring into Sandy Hook by the bucketfuls, funeral expenses are being covered, scholarships are being set up, teddy bears are accumulating by the truckloads, etc. Here is a good blog post about ideas of what a random act of kindness is. I sometimes think it is the little things, the caring things, that ability to just be nice to others, that will honor these people most of all. Making the world a better place can occur through the simplest of actions that don't involve one penny.

Also, the Connecticut PTSA is collecting homemade snowflakes to put in the relocated Sandy Hook School when the kids return after winter break. They want to make the "new" school a "Winter Wonderland." We will be participating in this mission, and my Girl Scout troop is making snowflakes as well. It's a great project for Christmas break, doesn't cost much, and gives the kids some way to participate.

Send your snowflakes to:
Connecticut PTSA
60 Connolly Parkway
Building 12, Suite 103
Hamden, CCT 06514

There are so many footnotes to all of this; I could write a million words. I think it's only fitting to mention my former colleagues at a local newspaper who have been spending days and nights covering this story. They have been nothing but respectful in their words and pictures and actions. They have worked, as they are required to, while many criticize them, under intense pressure and stress. These editors, writers and photographers have been spending countless hours working to get this story right and to make sure it is respectful. They have families as well and it is very hard for them as it is for all of us. It should be noted that we -- meaning my local newspaper's community -- are grieving for our own as well. Two of our former colleagues and respected friends lost loved ones who were adult victims in the shooting. We are devastated for them.

Today was the very poignant moment of silence. It is pouring, pouring buckets of rain here. Just incredible amounts of raindrops falling from the sky. It's like tears from heaven. Or a cleansing bath to wash all this sadness away, and say it's time to greet the world with a better attitude and mission. The new year is coming.

I hope you all do have a wonderful Christmas. 
There is more meaning in the season this year, don't you think? 

See you all in the New Year.