When Tragedy Becomes Personal

On December 14, 2012 an elementary school in Connecticut was attacked viciously and lives were changed forever.  On December 14, 2012 everybody seemed to have a theory on how this might have been prevented.  On December 14, 2012 global awareness was raised on a number of subjects.  On December 14, 2012 I was at work and only heard tidbits of information as customers mentioned what had happened, what had been reported, and chimed in with their own theories.  In the following days more rhetoric was spewed and posts abounded on Facebook. News stories continued to report versions of the truth.  In church that following Sunday we were informed that one of the victims was a member of the LDS Church and that the father had made a statement.  The sister teaching Relief Society had known the parents of that child individually prior to them having been married and creating a family.  And in the end I found myself turned off by it all.  I don't want to sound heartless but it was like overload of information and none of it pertained to me.

Yesterday I had to work again.  Merry Christmas to me.  It was a slow morning as most families were snuggled in their warm houses and we only had the few stragglers who had forgotten to get milk or cigarettes or booze.  My co-worker was looking through the People magazine in an effort to amuse himself.  When he went out for his smoke break I glanced over at the magazine to see if there was anything of worth.  The front cover was a dedication to the lives lost on December 14, 2012.  Inside was the personal stories of families who went searching for their children amidst the chaos.  Personal tributes of those who had known the teachers and administrators who had been attacked for no apparent reason.  And I had to stop reading because my heart hurt so much and I didn't want to be caught crying. 

I don't know any of these people any more now than I did on the day the tragedy occurred, but I realized that in a way I do.  You see, I have a 6 almost 7 year old daughter who lights up my life with her giggles, her smiles, her way of seeing the world.  She is my youngest child and often my favorite.  I have been blessed to spend many days at her school along with two of her siblings and their many classmates.  I cannot walk on that campus without somebody waving hello, calling my name, or knocking me over with an enthusiastic hug.  And while I do not personally know Ms. Soto who gave her life in an effort to protect her students, I do know Ms. Martin and Ms. Gladden and Ms. Virgil and Ms. Salmins and many more wonderful teachers who would have valiantly responded in kind if it were their classroom under attack.

I also have two teen-aged sons who I worry about constantly.  I have learned that I am unable to control their actions - they are too much like me for that to ever happen.  But I do spend many moments in serious conversation with them, in deep reflection on my own, as I try my best to instill in them a confidence in themselves, a respect for others (even those they do not particularly want to respect), and a belief in gospel principles, all of which will hopefully guide them in their decisions.  And I couldn't help but be grateful that the gunman took his mother's life before he went to the school.  Because I can only imagine the questions she would be facing if she had lived to know of her son's destruction of others' lives.  What did I do wrong? Where did I fail him? What could I have done differently?  And she never would have received any answers that would assauge her guilt because he was her son and that's a responsibility no mother takes lightly.

I truly hope I never have to find out personally what the families left behind are now facing each and every day that they must go forward without their loved one.  But even though the tragedy happened in an obscure location I'd never heard of and probably will never visit, my heart goes out to those families and yesterday I cried for them.


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