Yesterday, a coward acted. Mental illness is a harrowing disease, and it is often misunderstood in this country. But to act on any personal suffering with the intent of harming others and spreading that anguish is indeed cowardly. This man, in turn, robbed the futures of so many little children and the hearts of their families and loved ones. The coward who killed twenty-seven innocent people yesterday in Newtown, Connecticut certainly deserves a sentence far worse than his death.
When this coward acted, he did so with the intent of mass publicity, mass panic, and mass impact. He acted mercilessly, and in such a swift and violent a manner that allowed him to remain as far emotionally removed from his victims as possible. This coward killed himself after his act, unable to bear the consequences of what he had done. This coward was a monster. One who does not earn the right to be called a human being.
A brave person, on the other hand, acts with only one thought in mind: how can I help those around me? The teachers who risked their lives to save their students. The first responders. The doctors and nurses. The parents who tried to protect the innocence of their children despite the tragedy they witnessed. These brave people will also suffer at the hands of a cowardly, monstrous act.
Yesterday was a tragic day, particularly for the state of Connecticut. I grew up in Fairfield, Connecticut which lies just 30 minutes south of Newtown. I used to drive to Newtown as a young child playing travel soccer. I know the area. I know people who live in that town. As I began to watch the news unfold on television at work, I could not help but feel so distraught by what was happening. Newtown? It could have easily been in a school in Fairfield. I shudder at the thought.
This incident hit very close to home for me, both in physical proximity and in other ways. My mom works in the front office of the local high school, an office like the one in Newtown where the first victims of the shooting were found. My older sister is a teacher. My boyfriend’s sister is a teacher. My younger sister is a public school student: a young, amazing, beautiful teenager who has her entire future ahead of her.
I went into the bathroom at work and cried, called my boyfriend who was flying to Las Vegas that day to tell him what happened, and called my mom to make sure everything was okay at her school. I wanted to leave work, annoyed that people continued to go through their trivial daily business when the world’s larger problems were so glaring. I talked with my best friend from Fairfield who told me that she was shaking in her office at work. I knew I should shut the news off, but could not turn away for some reason.
Last night, I returned home from work and hugged my brother and sister and each of my parents. I was thankful. This incident is an unfortunate reminder that life is short, and the problems that we think are problems are actually not really problems at all.
Tonight, I celebrated the last night of Hanukkah with my family, and took more pause than usual to think about how lucky I am to do so this year. That is something that not everyone will be able to do this holiday season. My thoughts and prayers on this night of Hanukkah go out to those affected in this senseless tragedy.