Thou shalt not kill; even still, the devil went to Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, last Friday and broke that commandment as he unloaded assault weapons, emptied hearts, and left a nation paralyzed.
“…Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” Charlotte, Daniel, Olivia, Josephine, Ana, Dylan, Madeleine, Catherine, Chase, Jesse, James, Grace, Emilie, Jack, Noah, Caroline, Jessica, Avielle, Benjamin, Allison, along with adults Dawn, Mary, Anne Marie, Lauren, Rachel, and Victoria, each manifested this scripture as they ascended into heaven last Friday.
For 20 children, the devil had no right to take away baseball games, gymnastics, dance class, choir rehearsal, swim lessons, visits from the Tooth Fairy, birthday parties, bedtime stories, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, summer vacations, Easter speeches, soccer games, mud pies, basketball practice, spiritual rites of passage, tree-climbing, Christmas play performances, sandcastle building, dripping ice cream cones, trampoline jumping, trips to the barber shop, bike riding, cheerleading practice, back to school shopping, visits to the park, Awards Day, graduation ceremonies, and so much more.
For the parents of these 20 children, the devil swiped their ability to look at their child and ask or say those vitally important, yet so simple things: “Good morning. Where’s my hug? What did you dream about? Did you say your prayers? Did you brush your teeth? Get your clothes off the floor. Are you outside in your school clothes? Put on your play clothes. Eat your veggies first. Where is your coat and hat? Have you finished your homework? No, the moon isn’t following us. Clean your room. Yes, you may wear your cowboy boots to church. What time is Awards Day? Is that bus outside? Sorry, no ice cream and cake for breakfast. Say please and thank you. Stop hitting your brother. Get back in the tub; you’ve only been in five minutes! Did I sign the permission slip? When is the field trip? Put away your toys. Santa comes next week. You are the best thing that ever happened to me. I love you. Good night.”
For the survivors of this senseless tragedy, the devil tried to taint their innocence. No child, in Newtown or anywhere on this earth, should have to run for their lives, bolt from the typical safety of their school with raised hands, see their teachers killed, witness their friends being slain, experience sleepless nights, lose a sibling or a friend to violence, harbor and process horrific images of violence, or grow up too soon.
For the perpetrator, who shall remain nameless in this column, the ultimate question is WHY? Why were you a coward? Why did you slay the hearts and spirits of the innocent? Why did you choose vulnerable children to prey upon? The answer - this is what cowardly devils do.
In the days, weeks, months, and years to come, the stages of grief will be an ultimate struggle. When thinking of those that experienced loss in this senseless tragedy, I think of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s famous mountaintop speech when he said, “We’ve got some difficult days ahead” because they do; we all do as this tragedy impacts each of us. Ironically, Dr. King articulated that famous line the day before his assassination, which leads me to wonder what these little children said on the Thursday before the horror that robbed their young lives and sullied the innocence of other children on Friday. I wonder what their last conversations were with their parents; what were their last weekend’s plans; how will this impact the Christmas holidays; what were these children’s dreams and goals?
In these difficult days ahead, the questions will remain and attempts of understanding the viciousness of this tragedy will be overwhelming. One overarching lesson for those remaining is to capture every moment because what if one of our names, or those of our children, was replaced among those in the opening list?
Darkness does not last forever because the lights of these children will permeate through those that love them. In keeping with Dr. King’s resonating mountaintop speech, “But I know, somehow, that only when it is dark enough can you see the stars.” 27 new stars have helped the canopy of the night sky shine even brighter.