Fatherly Stuff: Reflecting on Newtown

Dec 22, 2012

Reflecting on Newtown


Hey guys.
It’s been a while since I posted my last article. I actually wasn’t sure if I’d ever post another article again. While the “mission” of Fatherly Stuff was to share my experiences as a dad with the general public, it eventually got to a point where the blog was taking me away from those very experiences that I treasure.
So I figured I’d take a little hiatus so I could focus more on my family. At the time I thought, maybe I’d write again in a few weeks. Well, those weeks turned into months and eventually, the blogosphere was pushed so far back into my mind, I wondered if I was really done with writing.
Then the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut occurred. 26 innocent people (of which 20 were young children) were senselessly murdered by an individual who obviously had severe mental health issues at Sandy Hook Elementary School. As the country grieves for the families of these victims, we frantically attempt to find answers to rationalize the unthinkable, as our government furiously debates gun laws, parents all over are  hugging their children a little tighter every night. With this event, the dream of moving your family to a quiet little suburb so your children may be safe has been shattered into pieces, left for us to reassemble. The pure brutality of the event has touched my heart in such a way I felt the need to speak on it a bit.
Besides the fact that I am a father of my own, there are a couple of additional indirect connections that I have to this event. The first one is the fact that my wife is a kindergarten teacher. Newtown is not far from the school where she works and at the time, I had no idea the extent of the attack; if Sandy Hook elementary was the only location, or if the violence would spill in nearby schools. Needless the say, I was kind of on edge until she text me to let me know she was fine. Also, one of my best friends is coincidentally a rookie police officer in Newtown. It is typically just a quiet, picturesque town, when he first told me he would be working there, we used to joke that his biggest emergency would probably be that the local doughnut shop ran out of supply. Now, he is in the middle of an international whirlwind, working virtually non-stop shifts in order to ensure the residents in his town are safe and I couldn’t be more proud of him. Lastly, I learned that all four of the staff members who were killed attended the same university as me. While I did not have the honor of personally knowing them, after hearing the stories of their self-sacrifice, I couldn’t help but feel a great sense of pride to know that we are a part of a shared tradition.
So now what? Where do we go from here?
Well, the very next day in the midst of all of that death and devastation, I went to see Santa. Weeks prior to the Event, we had purchased tickets to the East Haven Trolleys. They have an event set up for the holidays where their trolleys take you to Santa’s workshop and your children are given the opportunity to speak with Santa as well as a photo op. Of course, this is all my son could talk about for all the days leading up to this, as he wanted to make sure Santa knew that what he wanted for Christmas was a Lightening McQueen stuffed toy. Overall, the trip was a success and the little guy was happy to find out he was on Santa’s good list.
In the back of my mind though, I felt a little guilty. The term "survivor’s guilt” is probably too strong of a word, but it definitely felt a little strange to be out enjoying my weekend knowing that there are families out there who just yesterday saw their children off to school without realizing that would be the last time they would ever get to hug or kiss them again. For those families, the holidays are forever tarnished with feelings of grief and here we are drinking hot cocoa hanging out with Santa Claus.
But then I realized something. Besides disappointing a toddler, what would I accomplish by staying home and doing nothing? Whatever the gunman’s full motives were, he obviously wanted to cause as much pain and grief as possible. So my thinking is this: if we allow that grief to consume us and run our lives, his mission would be successful. Maybe going out and having a fun family day was the perfect way to honor those children.
By doing this, we are proving to him that despite his grievous attempts, we are stronger and more resilient than he could have ever imagined.  With that said, I encourage you all to continue living. Continue loving each other the best you know how, and we will all get through this together.