For the First Anniversary of the Sandy Hook Massacre

Imagine it . . .

We saw the lines of children running. We counted the souls flying from shattered bodies.  We counted bullets – between 2 and 10 in each body.  We tried not to think of the Christmas and Hanukkah gifts that would never be opened, because those they were meant for would never play again and those who had wrapped them could not bear to unwrap them.  

“Martyr” is a strong word, and it implies choice. Those children and the adults who tried to save them chose nothing but their last thoughts, which we can never know. It is rather we who made the choice to give their sacrifice meaning by finally banning the sale to civilians of military style semi-automatic and automatic weapons.

In the weeks between the massacre and New Year’s Day, we came together miraculously. The One Million Child March brought more than a million children and nearly as many adults and teens to D.C. in an historical call for sane gun control. NRA-backed and anti-gun senators met in the now famous Valentine’s Day Accord that enacted many of the changes the children had called for. Sales of unbanned guns increased, but in a breakthrough that may win them the Nobel peace prize two college juniors  at the University of Connecticut devised a test that quickly reveals, with high accuracy, evidence of violent mental illness and pathological anger. Gun shop owners embraced the test even before required to by law and gun shows followed suit after 6 months of unrelenting pickets and virtual campaigns. And in a bold action dramatized in the Hollywood movie Sanity (released Thanksgiving Day), gangs in all major U.S. cities collected and destroyed thousands of the popular AR-15 style assault rifles (an estimated 3.3 million of which had been sold domestically in the 25 years prior). And in acknowledgement of the wisdom of the adage “guns don’t kill people, people kill people,” savings from modest cuts to military spending were used to provide free, high quality, prolonged mental health care throughout the country.

If this wasn’t a day for grief, we might be celebrating.  Since Sandy Hook, the homicide rate has plummeted. After four terrible killing sprees in 2012, we endured not one in 2013. No one can say how many lives the Sandy Hook children have saved. Those who might have grown up to be researchers, doctors, nurses and other healers could probably not in their lifetimes have saved so many. Those who would have become teachers could not have taught more than they taught us on December 14th 2012. And the boys and girls who might have become soldiers, medics, policeman and fireman could not in a very long life time of devoted service have protected us with their lives more than they have protected us with their deaths. 

We mourn them as we mourn our past apathy.  We wish we had changed sooner.  Let us take comfort from the thought that though we could not go back in time and save them, at least we acted to save children and others in future classrooms, malls, movie theaters, homes and streets.  We changed in ways we never thought we could. We chose to make sure their short lives gave our nation a better life, so that this holiday season every wrapped gift can be opened; every promise kept.