There are events that take place in your lifetime that you remember as if it happened only yesterday. You vividly recall where you were and what you were doing and you remember it for the rest of your life. Events like 9/11 - I'll never forget where I was (at work), who I was with (close friends and co-workers) and how I felt - how we all felt as the events unfolded (stunned, shocked, in disbelief).
And so it will be the same with regard to the horrible, senseless and tragic massacre that occurred at the Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14, 2012.
It was a beautiful day; bright and sunny, the air cool and crisp. I stopped at my boyfriend's house on the way to work to pick up his mail since he had been out of town all week and was in fact, returning later that day. I remember hearing a helicopter, looking up at it and thinking to myself, how odd that it was black and flying so low. Mind you, the "event" hadn't happened yet (still over 40 minutes away), so it was probably just flying around over the highway or perhaps coming in for a landing at nearby Danbury Airport.
I continued on to work and was doing the usual work stuff in the office, but I was also tracking my boyfriend's flight which was en route from Austria to JFK. My friend and co-worker had just returned to his desk which is next to mine and shouted over the partition asking if I had seen the online bulletin which had been released from the head of our HR Department, alerting us to an "event" that had taken place in Newtown. I had not. The bulletin mentioned something about a shooting in Newtown and provided a link to the developing news story and instructed people to leave if they felt they needed to leave. My company never advises leaving. Hardly ever, unless it's a state/government mandate due to a weather emergency or something, so we knew this was big. Indeed, a shooting had occurred at an elementary school in Sandy Hook. My thought immediately went to my friend who has a daughter that attends school in Sandy Hook - thankfully she attends a different school. However, her school, as well as other schools throughout the area were in lockdown. How horrible to be a parent and not be able to get to your child in the midst of this chaos and developing horror, which in the beginning, was fraught with confusion, and constant twists and turns as the story continued to unfold. (Similar to 9/11... at first we heard a small plane had hit one of the towers, only to find out it was an airliner. And then a second plane crashed into the second tower... and well, we know how that unraveled. Images that will haunt our memories forever).
So, in similar fashion, the events that took place in Sandy Hook on December 14 slowly unfolded. Most of us were watching livestream news on the internet. At the end of the day, twenty little first graders and six administrators/teachers were killed. Of course, the Sandy Hook event dominated the news but also on that same day in China, 22 little children were slashed with a knife as they were on the way to their elementary school.
By mid-afternoon, my boyfriend's plane finally landed and I emailed him to let him know a shooting had taken place in Newtown. I wanted him to be aware in case the traffic in our area might be affected but I felt I had to clarify by saying this was BIG. Not just any random shooting; but a mass murder. No need for my email though as this news story was all over the world by his time and he was watching it on CNN as he waiting in the line at Customs.
It's been surreal. Huge helicopters flying above my house en route to Newtown. The president of the United States visiting Newtown. This type of thing doesn't happen in your own backyard. And most certainly, you would never, ever expect a crime of this magnitude to take place in a town like Sandy Hook, Connecticut. Of course, the Columbine shooting, the Virginia Tech shooting, the Oklahoma City bombing, the Norway shooting - they're all terrible and horrible. But they're somewhere else and while you still feel bad and sad, furious and helpless, there's a bit of distance there. It's a different story when it hits so close to home.
So like I said, it's been surreal. And it's been a sad week. When the pictures were posted of those little children, that's when it really got to me. Such sweet little faces, so cute and innocent. They never did anything to hurt anyone. They were just cute little kids - little first graders between 6-7 years old. Gunned down. Forever silenced. I cannot even begin to imagine the depth of grief of losing a child and especially losing them in such a violent, senseless manner. How does a parent face the void left behind by the death of one so young and full of life? Never to hear their child's laughter again. Or play a game together. Or push them in a swing. Or walk hand-in-hand, child between each parent, being lifted in the air. Or watch them grow up to be the human beings they were destined to be. How sad for the parents that during this holiday season, instead of selecting toys, they had to shop for caskets and decide which clothes to bury their child in. How does one deal with something like that? I can't even begin to come to terms with the level of pain those families must be going through.
Those parents were just going about their normal day - putting their kids on the school bus or dropping them off at school and then going on to work or whatever their normal routine was on that day only to have their lives shattered in the blink of an eye. How tragic for all the parents and especially those who moved to Sandy Hook for whatever reason brought them there that placed their child in that classroom at that time.
On a positive note, the amount of love and support from around the world has been profound. I'm not even directly affected by this tragic event except that it happened in the next town over from me and I have friends who live there, but I'm still so appreciative of all the people and businesses that took time out to write from all over the world. The outpouring of love and concern that flooded Facebook that day was meaningful beyond belief. The Sandy Hook/Newtown community has certainly come together to support each other. People in surrounding communities are doing what they can to help and trying to alleviate their own grief sorrow by building and visiting memorials and donating to the families.
So now there are new 26 souls released. It's a reminder that you just never know... your life can change in an instant... and so in closing, I'm reminded of a quote I have hanging on my partition at work:
Life is a precious gift. Don't waste it being unhappy, dissatisfied, or anything less than you can be. Too often we are so preoccupied with the destination, we forget the journey.
Enjoy life. Be kind to each other.