Saturday marks the first anniversary of the Sandy Hook massacre that took the lives of 20 young children and seven adults in an act of violence that remains difficult, if not impossible, to imagine.
The families of those killed have wisely asked to be left alone, without the intrusion of vulture journalism. And some have suggested that all of us can best commemorate those beloved children and educators by undertaking, in this anniversary week, acts of kindness, volunteering our time and our attention in any way we can.
Doing so will not erase the frustration many people feel that, a year after the tragedy, no legislative action of any kind has been taken to expand background checks for gun purchases or to further limit access to firearms and ammunition by people with criminal backgrounds or psychiatric conditions. A Senate bill expanding background checks hit a Republican filibuster on April 17 and died. Nothing has happened since.
But given the armed nature of America and the political power of the gun lobby, it isn’t clear that more gun control is a pragmatic solution. And there may not be one.
But some of the wisest words we’ve read on Sandy Hook come from Alissa Parker, whose 6-year-old daughter Emilie was one of the victims. Parker now has a popular blog, on which she wrote the following entry:
“On the one-year anniversary of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary, I have reflected a lot about what it means to me. It has been one year since I saw my sweet little Emilie.
“I will be honest, I hate when the media comes into town. I don’t like seeing their vans with large satellite dishes parked on every corner. I don’t like reporters bothering me to comment or give interviews about the ‘latest’ findings with the case. I don’t like seeing my daughter’s picture on the news associated with her violent death. And I really don’t like talking about the anniversary of the shooting.
“So, I choose to turn it all off. I choose to reflect on what I have learned about myself and my journey through grief. I choose to quietly remember the sweet loved ones who were lost that day. I choose to spend this sacred time with my family. And I choose to be at peace.
“This year has taught me so much about not taking loved ones for granted. Love is so simple and yet so powerful. Love connects us all with each other. Love is what forever connects Emilie to my heart. God has shown me how beautiful life truly is when you learn to forgive and feel true peace.
“It has not been an easy journey, but I have learned so much about being patient with myself. I don’t have to hold on to anger and I don’t have to hold on to pain. There have been times where I felt like I HAD to hold on to the dark things, like it was some responsibility I was supposed to carry.
“But Emilie’s life was about color and joy, not about pain and suffering. (I have learned) to roll away from the things that irritate me and to reach out and hold the hand of my baby and smile instead.”