Saturday, December 15, 2012

True Heroes

On Friday morning, around 9:30 AM, I brought up some Christmas presents, wrapping paper, and supplies to wrap some gifts with my two year old daughter, whose cold and slight fever had kept me home from school for the day.  I had just finished my first masterpiece when the phone rang.  My husband, from his newsfeed at work, had just received word that there was a school shooting at Sandy Hook School in Newtown, Connecticut.  My heart sank.  "What?" I gasped.   I called my sister, Beth.  It was just after 9:50 and she didn't pick up.  I quickly hung up the phone to call my mom, a nurse at Danbury Hospital, the closest hospital to the school.

She picked up cheerfully until she heard the desperation in my voice.  "Mom, have you heard from Beth?"  I asked, shaking and pacing around my kitchen.

"Nooo, why?"

"There's been a shooting at her school and I can't reach her."

And so it began.

We were one of the lucky ones.  Within an hour, I had a text message from Beth that she was OK.  Her husband, Matt, had raced up there to be with her, and she was safe.

Safe.  What does that word even mean to her anymore?  Does that mean that she can walk back into the school without memories of crouching in a corner with sixteen second graders, praying that the jiggling of the door handle wasn't going to result in gunfire in her classroom?  Can she hear the sound of the loudspeaker begin again without imagining what she heard and experienced on that day?

I drove there to hug Beth.  I knew she would be scared, and honestly, so was I.  At that time, the world didn't know the gravity of the situation, but as I walked toward the firehouse, I sensed it.  Media vans lined the side of the little road, yet there was just silence.  The heels of my boots clicking on the pavement was the only sound, second to the chilling roar of the helicopters above.  As I entered the firehouse, I wrapped my arms around Beth.  I was relieved; she was broken.  Then families were searching for their children.  Staff members were embracing their loved ones.  A fireman was on the phone, tears streaming down his face.

Our story is one of relief, but there were so many, too many, stories yesterday and today that ended in complete and utter destruction.   I have a broken heart every moment of every day for the parents of the children who were so unfairly taken early in a place of solace and care of a first grade classroom.  I honor the staff who bravely protected children and perished to shield them.  I pray for the staff, that they can heal together and rise up against the evil that they so painstakingly experienced.  A long road ahead of healing exists for too, too many souls in Newtown and through our surrounding area.

Every story that I have heard from Beth's colleagues sounds the same.  Their first priority was to protect those kids.  They were holding doors closed, huddling in corners, singing to their students, calming the kids down, hiding them in closets, bathrooms, storage closets and under cubbies.  They are all heroes.  True, honest heroes.  What they heard and saw yesterday morning has forever changed them, and I pray that their hearts will heal.

I am numb from sadness, as I think we all are, but I can't help but think about Beth, her colleagues, and the Sandy Hook community.  The pictures that you see on the news--- those are their friends and colleagues.  Their children.  Their students.  Their families.  Every time the news shows a picture of someone crying, wounds are reopened.  Yet, they cling to the news for more information--- to piece together a story and try to make sense of why their little community was rocked to the core by such evil and hatred.   The terror that we watch on the news and can only imagine, they lived it, and they are living it every moment of every day.   I can appreciate and respect the heated conversations about gun control and mental health on the news as people try to wrap their heads around how this could have happened to the most innocent of lives in the most cherished of places.  Yet, to me... at least today... it's about the people:  the heroes, the fallen, and the survivors...  not the guns.  At least today... it's just too close to home.

Too many lives were taken too soon yesterday.   My heart breaks for the families who, after hearing the terrifying call that I heard in the morning, were never able to wrap their arms around their loved one(s) like I did.  I pray for the families who weren't able to feel relief yesterday.  There are simply no words to express the destruction of hearts just a town away.  I pray that all of our hearts will heal and that broken hearts will mend.  Tonight, I light one candle to honor the light of the lives and souls that have been ripped from their families and friends.  I light another one to recognize the heroism of the teachers, staff, survivors, and families who will continue their healing for a long, long time.


  1. Sarah, I didn't know that your sister teaches at that school. I am so happy for your family that she was not harmed physically. There are no words for what happened. Hug your sister tight :)

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