Friday, December 14, 2012

Thoughts on the Newtown Tragedy

When I was eight years old, I was in a bank when it was robbed at gunpoint by two men in ski masks. That's not the beginning of a fictional story. That really happened. So, when I see TV shows involving violent shootings, those scenes become embedded somewhere in my psyche... and as soon as I heard that Adam Lanza shot his mother first and then went to the school and shot people in the school's office, I immediately thought about the Law & Order: Special Victims Unit episode that aired last week, called Dreams Deferred.

This is a link to the full episode

I do not watch the show. It caught me by surprise last week before I knew what I was watching. I wouldn't doubt that the opening scene from this episode gave this kid the idea to destroy everything he knew. We really need to re-examine the violently evocative images we make available on television. People are watching. And learning. 

I hope with all my heart that the families in Newtown can one day find some level of peace. I've found very little peace regarding the armed robbery I witnessed so many years ago, and no shots were fired there. There was no loss of life that day. But you never fully get over being held at gunpoint in a room full of people. In my case, one of those people was my dad. One was my sister. What do you do? Do you stay down on the ground or do you run to your dad? This is why I always say you really have no idea how you will respond until you are called upon to make the choice in the moment. In that bank that day, we stayed put. But I often wonder if we would have stayed on the ground if there wasn't a woman who saw that my sister and I were closest to the gunman and risked her life to throw herself in front of us. She kept us down. She covered us. We walked out of the building that day without a scratch... on the outside. 

That was one of the only moments of my life where I experienced heart-stopping, paralyzingly real fear.  I can come closer to imagining what the people in Newtown are feeling tonight than most of the people I know, and even then... it doesn't even break the surface. 

Those families have my respect and my heart tonight. The strength they will need to muster in the days ahead will be monumental. They will have to find it in a place deep down inside themselves that they never even knew existed until now. And after today, it will be impossible to forget that well of strength within. This is their story now. They will choose to be survivors; not victims. I can already tell. Did you see how fast they all gathered together tonight? Survivors.

~~ This blog post took a wildly different turn from where I thought it was headed. But isn't that life, after all? We very rarely get what we thought we were going to get. And, in the end, even though I intended to preach about the madness we allow on television these days, all that really matters is that something happened today... something unfathomable... something horrific, and yet those families in Newtown are gathered together in their town's churches right now to help each other to survive and, with time and newfound strength, to thrive. 

And they will.


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