“I don’t know anyone who loved life more than Ben,” Francine Wheeler told Oprah on Super Soul Sunday. Her son Ben was one of the victims of the school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary school. She went on to describe the last morning she spent with Ben before he died. Ben, was six years old. That morning, sweet, innocent Ben asked his Mom, “What does forgiveness mean?” I am sure, amid the busy morning, she had no idea, how she would soon realize how meaningful those words would be. Ben and his Mom went to Starbucks together so he could order his favorite- Starbucks hot chocolate, and they shared a heartfelt conversation that no doubt she will carry in her heart for the rest of her life. He told her about his dreams for his future. He wanted to be an Architect, and a Paleontologist because that is what his brother wanted to be. He never got the chance. I carry the memory of her raw emotion, both pain and courage in my heart and the pictures of those children touched me so deeply. I know I am not alone.
On December 14th, 2012, the day of the mass shooting at Sandy hook Elementary my youngest daughter was in second grade. I remember my heart just breaking for the parents who will live their lives with a hole in their heart. My pain is miniscule compared to theirs. As every parent knows, having a child is like having your heart suddenly live outside of your body. For several months, I would drop my kids off at their grade school and try and take a mental imprint of what they were wearing. I couldn’t escape the fear that it could be the last time I would see them alive.
This week, I have the same feeling of total heartbreak. The nation mourns for those children and families. February 14th, 2018 my grade school children are now teenagers and attending high school, just like the kids in Parkland, Florida. I made the conscious decision to read the accounts from the families and feel the raw grief they are feeling. I think we need to collectively feel the pain. And after the prayers and condolences, we have to act. This just cannot be.
We have to rally together and decide who we are as a country. Are we the country who decides school massacres are the price we pay for freedom? Are we the country who just shrugs our shoulders and decides it is just too hard to fight for change to help keep our kids safe? Are we the country who doesn’t have the will to demand action from our leaders?
I refuse to believe this is who we are. I refuse to believe there is nothing we can do. We are smarter, stronger, more creative, and resilient than that. The United States of America was built on the idea we can collectively do things no one thought possible. I am not naïve. We have gotten ourselves into a big mess and no one law will immediately solve the issue of thousands of dangerous weapons in civilians’ hands. But just because we can’t save every life, does not mean we do absolutely nothing, or worse, actively pass laws that make buying guns easier and less restrictive, which is what is happening right now.
I am so very sorry for the heartbreak these gun deaths have caused and I remain hopeful we can raise a generation of kids who will not have to experience this pain. There are countries, like Australia, who we can look to for solutions that resulted in the eradication of mass shootings. We need to elect leaders who do more than extend thoughts and prayers. The number one responsibility of a government is to protect public safety. We have failed in our number one responsibility to protect our children, and that is not who we are. I do not say “we” lightly. This is a collective problem. We elect the leaders who represent our beliefs and we can elect leaders who are committed to taking their responsibility of protecting public safety seriously. Whatever we do, we should never forget this is about kids like Ben and the hundreds of other children affected by violence and all our efforts should keep their stories and faces at the forefront of our decisions. We should never forget.
I would be curious to know how you feel after this national tragedy?