Like most of us, I experienced all the emotions the experts tell us are the ways in which we deal with unexpected loss and unimaginable situations of pain and sorrow. Denial comes first. Listening to the initial radio reports at the hospital I did not believe nor did I want too that this was as bad as it eventually became. After the emergency department informed me we were not expecting anyone involved in the incident, I informed the associated press reporter who had been calling with relief. I kept telling myself it was going to be ok. It had to be. These things just don't happen. They just can't.
As the day and the weekend evolved, and the magnitude of the what happened emerged, anger came next. How on earth did this happen? Why did this man have this horrible assault rifle and what insanity led him to this? How did he get in this school, and on and on. Discussing with friends and colleagues I could feel my voice and temper rising uncontrollably. I experienced that terrible and sinking feeling I've felt many times before that there is nothing we can do to stop this type of senseless violence. How powerless we all seem when these things happen.
This was followed, as it was days after 9/11, with periodic bouts of numerous emotions and busts of tears as stories of unbelievable loss, amazing heroism, and public grief appeared on the airwaves and screens. Depression then sets in seeing the photos and videos of unconsolable families and children lost and Facebook posts with sorrowful images and poems. Information overload of the most upsetting kind. Many said that hugging the children in your life a little tighter would help. It did for me, but made me sadder too. I could not explain this to my niece and nephew who asked me why my eyes were tearing. Uncle Tim is not feeling well today was all I could say. It was a good enough for them.
The last stage is acceptance. I am obviously not there yet. It's too early. Too many emotions left. Too many unanswered questions. Not enough time has passed.
So where do we go from here? We come together and we look to those who showed us the best in humanity.
Watching the seemingly unending coverage from Sandy Hook showed children who helped each other escape, teachers protecting their students with their lives, administrators reacting as the heroes they are, and first responders and police charging into an unknown situation to save lives. Then there was all the messages of hope from people across the country and world. There were random acts of kindness, messages on lawns, makeshift memorials, candlelight vigils, and an outpouring of messaging on social media. The President came to town and spoke to offer the prayers and love of a Nation. Those lost could have been lost in any town in America he told us. That mere words will not heal the wounded hearts, and that the people of Sandy Hook are not alone. He assured them that we will all share their sadness and help ease this heavy burden. They are people who have shown us all strength, resolve and sacrifice and for these they have helped us heal as well.
As one sign read "our hearts are broken but our spirits are strong."
What always seems to affect and inspire me the most during these times is how people react and come together to support and embrace those personally affected by tragedy. Communities are amazing in that respect. When you need them most they are there for you. Your family, your friends, your neighbors, your teachers, your co-workers, your team members, your leaders, and your fellow parishioners. That is why I am so grateful for our community. I believe we are all connected by our mutual respect and love for our town and its beauty and people. It is why when these things happen, we can reach out to others in need. We are all really one.
To all those affected by what has happened and have lost loved ones, family members and friends, you are in our thoughts and prayers during this difficult time. We stand in support of you and your community in your time of need. You will get through this because you have each other. And us too.