A year ago today, I, along with the rest of the nation, watched in horror and disbelief as tragedy unfolded in Sandy Hook, Connecticut. I was 9 months pregnant and emotional anyway. That day, my husband didn’t hesitate; he drove to the elementary school and checked my two girls out of school. He knew I needed to see them and hug them, just to reassure myself that there were okay.
This day was almost exactly a month after the release of my novel, “The Unlikely Gift of Treasure Blume” which is set in an elementary school. My heroine is a first grade teacher.
No one thinks that becoming a teacher is a dangerous career choice. At least, we only consider it financially dangerous (no one ever went into teaching for the money). But I don’t think we can deny it any longer.
On the one year anniversary of Sandy Hook, we saw a school librarian in Colorado run away from the high school, trying to draw the gunman away from the rest of the students. The Arapahoe County Sheriff said, “The teacher exited the school immediately, which was, in my opinion, the most important tactical decision that could have been made.” Earlier this year, we witnessed teachers in Moore, Oklahoma, who shielded students from deadly tornadoes with their own bodies. Teaching is dangerous. Teachers risk their lives to keep our children safe. Like firefighters and policemen, teachers are heroes who are just doing their jobs.
My heart breaks for the families that spent an entire year without their sons and daughters. That day, I knew that many of those parents already had Christmas gifts wrapped under the tree, bearing the names of those who would never come home. But this year, I know what those parents would want us as a gift from each of us. Newtown itself has asked us to honor the victims by doing acts of kindness this day, and everyday. Kindness, reads a sign in Newtown, warms your soul.
Emilie Parker was one of the children who died that day. A blue-eyed blonde, she looks much like my own daughters. In fact, in one of her photos, she wears a pink sweater from Old Navy that hangs in my Sasha’s closet. Emilie has ties to Utah, where I live, and her face, for me, is the angel face of the tragedy.
Her family recently posted a video about Emilie, remembering her life full of love, color, selflessness, and joy. In this video, her mother declares, like Longfellow, that evil didn’t win that day–that goodness, light, and God’s love is so much grander than evil and darkness.
That day, and today, the words of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s classic hymn ring in my head:
“And in despair, I bowed my head. There is no peace on earth, I said. For hate is strong, and mocks the song of peace on earth, goodwill toward men.
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep. God is not dead, nor doth he sleep. The wrong shall fail. The right prevail with peace on earth, goodwill to men.”
God isn’t dead. He is real, and because of Him, we have hope: hope in his birth, hope in his resurrection, and hope in the goodness of mankind. We can show peace on earth now, by honoring the memory of the victims through acts of kindness, the same acts they would have done if they were here. That will be my Christmas gift to Sandy Hook this year. I’d love to have you participate with me.