I was going to write about tennis today, but I just can’t.
I just can’t stop thinking about the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut last Friday. I can’t stop thinking about Noah Pozner and Jack Pinto, the two six-year-old boys who were laid to rest today. I can’t stop thinking about the 18 other children and seven other adults who will be buried later this week. I can’t stop thinking about the unfathomable magnitude of this tragedy.
I can’t stop thinking about what it was like to be six years old. I went to Sternberger Elementary School. I joined girl scouts, I sang a solo in the church choir, and I was allowed to occasionally walk the seven minutes to school by myself. “Beauty and the Beast” was my favorite movie. I cried when I wasn’t invited to Marie’s birthday party. I had imaginary friends. I never felt unsafe.
I can’t stop thinking about the futures the 20 children in Sandy Hook were supposed to have. They were supposed to hate middle school and go to high school and apply for colleges. They were supposed to fall in love and get their hearts broken and fall in love again. They were supposed to become nerds or jocks or popular or outcasts. They were supposed to be artists or teachers or lawyers or nurses. They were supposed to make mistakes and get back up again. They were supposed to grow up.
I can’t stop thinking about the teachers who gave their lives trying to protect the children. Heroes, all of them. I can’t stop thinking about the families and friends and dreams they left behind. I can’t stop thinking about how much worse this could have been.
I can’t stop thinking about Nancy Lanza, who died at the hands of her own son. I can’t stop wondering if she knew what he planned to do next.
I can’t stop thinking about my cousin who was at Virginia Tech the day that campus experienced a similar tragedy. I can’t stop thinking about those hours our family spent waiting before we knew she was okay. I can’t stop thinking about my uncles and other cousins, both liberal and conservative, who will be wrapping up guns and giving them to each other as presents this Christmas.
I can’t stop thinking about how senseless acts of violence happen all over the world all the time, and how few of them cause me to bat an eye.
I can’t stop thinking about how there’s no simple solution to this problem, but how that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t work towards one anyway. There is no reason that civilians need assault weapons. There is no reason that mental health care should be so impossible to get. There is no reason that those with mental health issues should be so stigmatized and shamed. There is no reason for the bickering, the blaming, and the cowardliness. There is no reason for the safety of children to be a partisan issue.
I can’t stop thinking about where we go from here. As time goes on my focus will shift elsewhere. I will start thinking about tennis again. I will write about other things and work on other things and talk about other things. The majority of the nation will move on too, until another national tragedy brings us back to our knees. Back to debating the same topics. Back to wondering how we’ve managed to let this happen again.
I hope I’m wrong. I hope that this time things will be different. I hope that we will all start having the tough conversations, the ones that don’t fit conveniently into tweets or blog post titles or breaking news scrolls. I hope that we start to value humanity over tradition, compassion over money, and common sense over bravado. So many issues tear us apart as a nation. I hope this one brings us together.
I can’t stop thinking about the Christmas presents that will never be opened, the dreams that will never be dreamed, and the families that will never be whole again. I hope we all carry the weight of those lost futures in our hearts and minds forever. Let’s fight for change. Let’s make tough decisions. Let’s grow up. Because I can’t stop thinking about those 27 victims in Newtown who won’t have a chance to.