I couldn't tell you the exact date of Aurora... I just know it was summer, I think July, and the week that the last Batman movie opened. I know Gabby Giffords was shot in January. I think the Sikh temple was in September.
Newtown was Dec. 14, 2012. It was the Friday of the first week I worked in schools.
Daniel Barden's family will never be able to forget that day. Neither will the families of 26 other people.
I admit to feeling a little sad that most news stories only say the tragedy affected "26 families." Nancy Lanza is almost always overlooked. While she did purchase the weapons that her troubled son used to murder 20 children and six educators, she became the first victim of his insane rampage. She is also a victim, and her family also grieves. Obviously she never thought he would do what he did. It cost her her life as well.
Barden's surviving parents and older siblings now must hold up through the Mother's Day last month and Father's Day soon that are reminders of who is missing. A family summer vacation is different.
Everything is different.
Look at that picture.
I see kids every day who look like Daniel Barden. The pure faces, the missing teeth, the smiles that come from someplace perfect.
Because of my great fortune to spend five weeks with one class, in the last three weeks I've been able to see some of the nuance and learn about the true personalities of these 22 children. I can't remember if I told this anecdote before, but recently at lunch, two girls in the class sat talking at the end of a table. I don't know what they were saying, but suddenly one of them burst out laughing. Not just a giggle -- a full-on howl of laughter. I wish I knew what made her so happy. But it was enough for me to see it. Because in that moment, a child was having a wonderful moment with another child.
I get to see these children get so excited about losing and growing teeth, about doing well in class, or working to do well in class, about the things that amuse and interest them. I have a window into a purity that parents and teachers only regularly see, and only people in schools see on such a broad scale.
The kids are working on journals, and most of them are simple and brief. One girl, however, is working hard to have a gigantic book. She let me read it last week. About half the pages go like this:
- We went to the zoo. It was fun.
- I had a birthday party. It was fun.
- We went to the pool. It was fun.
And she's really proud that she has written so much.
You can't see this and not find it adorable and heartwarming. And this is what makes the tragedy of Sandy Hook so painful for the survivors, and so shameful that gun nuts refuse to allow sensible legislation to be enacted. Those mostly Republican senators who blocked legislation have a seat by the fire waiting for them some day.