Friday, December 14th, 2012, was like any other morning. I got up and got ready for work. I turned on the news and heard that there had been a mass shooting at an elementary school and I froze when I saw that six people were injured. I went to work. I work at NBCUniversal, so news was coming in pretty steadily by this time. I listened as the body count climbed from six to eighteen, and eighteen to twenty, and twenty to twenty-six. I fought back tears when I heard that twenty of the casualties were children. I fought back tears again when I sat in a conference call and heard “Why aren’t we promoting on social? Cause of those kids? Come on!”
There was a mass of misinformation that day. No one could figure out if the shooter’s mother was involved at the school, if there was a second shooter, if there was a motive, etc. It didn’t matter, though. Nothing really mattered. I went home and, for the first time, cried over an American tragedy. I tried to do anything that might take my mind off of that Friday’s events, but everything took such effort. I just wanted to stay in bed. Nothing mattered. When I did venture out and I saw people walking I couldn’t fathom how they were doing it. Did they not know? Maybe they just don’t watch the news, because that’s the only explanation, right?
By the time Sunday came, we had all the information we were probably going to get. It was a single shooter—he used a Bushmaster assault rifle, and he put anywhere from three to eleven holes in the bodies of six- and seven-year-olds. Teachers told their students that they loved them so it would be the last thing they heard—not gun shots. She told them to wait for the good guys, and that they would be coming. Teachers formed human shields around children, and they read them stories and gave them lollipops. “We thought it would be our last snack,” one seven year old told a reporter. A 27-year-old teacher hid her students in cupboards and a closet then told the gunman that her “students [were] in the gym” before she, herself, was gunned down. Children spoke of how they heard the shooter banging on the locked closet door, screaming “Let me in!” One sweet six year old girl hid under the bodies of her fifteen classmates. When the police arrived, she ran to her mom and said, “Mommy, I’m okay but all my friends are dead.” One student offered, “I know karate! I’ll lead the way out.” The Principal and School Psychologist even charged the shooter. They charged him, but the rapid-fire weapon won out over their bravery. Parents gathered at the firehouse, waiting to embrace their children. They matched up children ages, five to ten, with their parents. What was left was twenty parents without their babies and that’s how they began identifying the bodies.
This past Monday, the funerals began. The bodies were finally identified (by photographs, because no parent should remember their child with eleven military-grade bulletholes in them) and released. Stories came out about Jack Pinto, a six-year-old boy whose favorite football player was Victor Cruz of the NY Giants. That night, Cruz dedicated a game to Jack and wrote his name on his gloves and cleats before heading to Newtown to see his family. Jack was buried in a replica Cruz jersey. Jessica Rekos, another six-year-old, loved horses. Her parents promised her that on her tenth birthday she would get a pony. For Christmas, Jessica asked for cowgirl boots and a cowgirl hat. Seven-year-old Daniel Barton wanted to be a fireman. At his funeral on Wednesday morning, New York firefighters were there, standing clad in dress blue uniforms, many with white gloves to honor Daniel.
Emilie Parker, another victim, loved drawing and carried her markers everywhere. Her father spoke to the press over the weekend. He said, “I am so lucky to be your dad,” present tense, which psychologies will tell you means he hasn’t accepted she’s gone—or in his past. He also said to the Lanza family, the family of the shooter that took his six-year-old little girl from him, “I can’t imagine how hard this experience must be for you, and I want you to know that our family and our love and our support goes out to you as well.”
So far we know that Nancy Lanza, the mother of the shooter Adam Lanza, was a good, kind, generous woman that vowed to be her son’s caretaker for life. She was a gun enthusiast and kept them in a gun locker in her basement. She didn’t work so she could monitor Adam, who had difficulties. She was in the process of having Adam committed at the time and this is being looked at as a possible motive for what Adam did. I mention Nancy Lanza because she, too, was a victim. I think the gutting number of twenty children ages six and seven makes us forget that seven adults died as well.
Naturally, this has sparked gun debates, healthcare debates, cultural debates, and parenting debates. But I don’t care. I don’t care about these debates. I don’t care anymore. I know this has happened fifteen times this year. I know something has to be done but I don’t care to debate it anymore. I …
Every week I scour the Internet to find something interesting to write about for this blog. This week I couldn’t. Nothing is meaningful, nothing is worth talking about. Nothing matters other than the fact that twenty-six innocent lives have been taken away.
I struggled; I’m still struggling to get back to normal. I’m not from Newtown. It didn’t happen to me or my family, but I still can’t move. I don’t know how anyone else is—especially those in Newtown. I want to fall into sobs when I hear things like I did on Friday: “Why aren’t we promoting on social? ‘Cause of those kids?” “Yes, anyone promoting on social today is getting negative responses” “Oh come on! Fine, we won’t do it today ugh.” I wanted to scream at that man, “Are you really lamenting the fact that we can’t promote (redacted) because twenty babies died at the hands of a psychopath?!” When I went on Facebook and Twitter and it was business as usual. “Ugh I hate that I’m stuck in traffic”, “Hey, come to my awesome party!” “Look Leanne Rimes had a nip slip”. On Monday when someone said, “Look, I know you’re from Newtown and you’re freaking out, but there are processes” to a coworker who forgot to CC someone on an email. A simple mistake that cost us nothing, but still she was chastised for it, and of course, I wanted to scream: SHUT UP WORLD! OPEN YOUR EYES.
I have a necklace that I wear. I love it. I bought from a company called bullets2bandages. The necklace is composed of bullets used in military weapons, which have been turned into necklaces and other trinkets. They hire veterans, manufacture locally, and donate 15% of their profits to veteran charities. I was sitting on my bed when the medical examiner said that the bullets Adam Lanza used were the one I wear around my neck. I turned my head and saw it hanging there. I walked over and held that bullet in my hand. It’s heavy even without powder in the casing. It’s long and cold. It’s the size of my palm. Then I thought about my eight-year-old nephew, Jakob, and my six-year-old niece, Eve, I thought about how little their bodies feel in my arms when I hold them. Then I thought about this bullet in my hand going through their bodies eleven times. I thought about what they would do if it was their school? What would I do to help them? Could I do anything?
My boyfriend teaches an acting class, and he has students from age seven to twelve. On Sunday, they had their holiday concert. I watched as these little children dressed as reindeer and snowflakes danced around a studio. I thought about twenty babies who were getting ready to make gingerbread houses that morning. I thought about twenty babies who were thinking about what Santa was going to bring them because they were still young and innocent enough to think Santa was coming. I thought about twenty sets of parents who have wrapped presents hidden in closets and in basements that will never be opened. I thought about twenty families who will never be able to celebrate Christmas without thinking about their babies scared, hurt, and taken from them. I see the pictures of these young, beautiful teachers, this smiling principal who was a mother of five, and feel the tears burning in my eyes. I think about these lives, I think about these babes every day and I hope I never stop. I have been profoundly changed by this, and if America hasn’t been, then it’s not my country—I just live in it—for now.
I live in a country that let this happen. I live in a country that has a majority of people who don’t even want to try to stop this from happening again. A country that didn’t stop to mourn, who didn’t miss a beat. A country who honestly thought because it didn’t directly happen to them, that it didn’t happen. A country that had fourteen mass shooting leading up to the second-worst mass shooting in our history and the worst one in our history involving children this year and it didn’t make every single American stand up and say, “Enough!” On December 14th, 2012, I became ashamed to be an American.
These 26 people have changed me, and they have profoundly changed me. I am inspired by their bravery, their innocence, and will remember them every single day of my life. I will work to be a better person because of them. I will strive for more and I will never give up on seeing mass shootings end in America. I owe 26 debts to the following and I’m so sorry:
- Charlotte Bacon, 6 years old
- Daniel Barden, 7 years old
- Rachel Davino, 29 years old
- Olivia Engel, 6 years old
- Josephine Gay, 7 years old
- Ana M. Marquez-Greene, 6 years old
- Dylan Hockley, 6 years old
- Dawn Hochsprung, 47 years old
- Madeleine F. Hsu, 6 years old
- Catherine V. Hubbard, 6 years old
- Chase Kowalski, 7 years old
- Jesse Lewis, 6 years old
- James Mattioli , 6 years old
- Grace McDonnell, 7 years old
- Anne Marie Murphy, 51 years old
- Emilie Parker, 6 years old
- Jack Pinto, 6 years old
- Noah Pozner, 6 years old
- Caroline Previdi, 6 years old
- Jessica Rekos, 6 years old
- Avielle Richman, 6 years old
- Lauren Rousseau, 30 years old
- Mary Sherlach, 56 years old
- Victoria Soto, 7 years old
- Benjamin Wheeler, 6 years old
- Allison N. Wyatt, 6 years old