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By Craig Hayes
Like many of you I had been reading with horror and disgust about the awful events in Connecticut this past Friday when I came across a story in the local paper about the heroic teacher who saved her students by cramming them into a bathroom and telling them to stay silent because a bad man was in the school.
As they huddled together, listening to the blasts from a madman’s rifle and the carnage of their classmates, one of the children told their teacher, “I just want Christmas”
Because of the quick thinking from that child’s teacher and the grace of God, there will be a Christmas for that brave student. Sadly, as we all know by now, there are 26 people who will never experience Christmas again, including 20 children, all of them just six and seven years old.
I’m not writing this story to stir up a debate on gun control. I will leave such matters to the politicians and journalists who all already using this tragedy to push their respective viewpoints.
I am doing it because certain events inspire you to write about them. Call it cathartic or theraputic; it’s just how it works for me.
Earlier this year, I had the the most fun I ever had writing an article for OKTC when I talked about the wonderful upset of the ULM Warhawks over Arkansas. I loved it because I literally watched the game, felt a need to write about it, and then opened my laptop and finished it in about thirty minutes.
I tell this story not to brag about setting any speed records in blogging, but to make the point that the most enjoyable types of writing are stories that are inspired by teams like the Warhawks, and players like Kolton Browning.
The converse is happening right now, as once again some cowardly animal decided that the best way to celebrate a time of supposed peace and good will in the world would be to massacre 26 people, including 20 children.
I didn’t want my next article to be about something like this, especially since my last piece was about Superstorm Sandy. I want to write about football and bowl games, Johnny Football’s hot girlfriend and the best Christmas present I ever received (BMX bike, age 10). But sadly, sometimes the awful events of the world inspire you to write just as much as the great moments in life tend to do.
And this case is about as awful as you can get.
All murders are obviously horrible events, but I cannot even fathom the carnage that is now being sifted through in Newtown, Connecticut. It is fodder for a horror film. Except no studio would ever want to release a film on a case like this. It is simply too horrific.
Twenty children, elementary school kids that were still in that magical age where Santa Claus exists, just wanted Christmas. They wanted to finish the projects that their parents would proudly place on the mantle, count the eleven days until Santa arrived, and just be kids. Kids that could play and laugh, dream and wonder, and live their lives in a world where things like this don’t happen.
Unfortunately, today, far too often, tragedies like this do happen. In as senseless a manner as you can imagine, twenty souls will never know all that we were lucky enough to experience while growing up. They won’t know any more birthdays or holidays, no football teams and Friday Night Lights, no cheer squads and kicklines, no college and frats and sororites and marriages and families of their own.
All gone, just like that. In the split second that it takes some madman to squeeze a trigger.
And for the parents, they began their day the way I did, the way most of us did. They said goodbye to their children and went to work as their kids left for school, confident that they would be safe. As a parent, you worry about a lot of things, is it too much to ask that you should be able to say goodbye to your child as they go to school, and expect to see them again for dinner?
For these parents it sadly was, as their day was cut short with a phone call to report to the local fire house to pick up their kids after an incident at the school. When they arrived -in record time I am sure- they were met with a sea of parents and police officers, and witnessed countless reunions as they searched for that scarf they made their little boy wear, or that head of hair they would immediately recognize as their daughter’s, anything to set them at ease and let them know everything was going to be all right. But it wasn’t all right, and for 26 families things will never be the same.
And why did he do this? Does it even matter?
There is no justification, no explanation that will satisfy anyone, just a bunch of dead sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, all gone, 11 days before Christmas.
I am not here to blame the gun lobby, the NRA, or Second Amendment proponents. We can argue about the Constitution another day.
Let’s be clear on one point. The only ones I blame in cases like this are the killers.
But there is a great expression that when you are faced with a problem, don’t search for who to blame for it, search for a solution.
Problems as complex as gun violence and mass killings require intergrated solutions. It takes a country’s citizens and politicians, laws and the proper enforcement of them, and most of all parents who are the first teachers to all children. Because if there is one thing we can all agree on, violence is something you learn, not something that you are born with.
You want proof, take two toddlers from the most divergent backgrounds and put them in a room together, they will play, not fight.
I’m not saying that preventing days like Friday will be easy, but I refuse to believe that a country that can place a man on the moon, build computers that fit in the palm of your hand, and cure and treat diseases on a massive scale has to throw their collective hands up and quit when it comes to solving a problem like gun violence.
All I will say about the inevitable debates to come from Washington to Main Street is that people on both ends of the Gun Control lobby need to stop laying blame and just listen. Not just to each other, but to the screams of horror, loss and despair that are echoing through this country far too often these days.
Today those screams are coming from Connecticut.
Will they listen now?