Visiting Newtown showed me love that’s stronger than hate
Like many Americans, I’ve been glued to the television since hearing of the tragic shootings that took place at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT. Unlike the majority of people in our country, I live a short distance away from the location of the horrific act. When I read of a prayer vigil being held at Newtown High on Sunday night, I had to go.
I woke up Sunday morning to the news that President Obama was planning to attend the vigil as well. I found it comforting that he, too, felt a need to step into the brokenness and stand with the sorrowful. I prayed for his safety and protection during the journey.
My boyfriend and I, along with two friends, got into Newtown a few hours before the 7-o’clock vigil was scheduled to begin. The streets were lined up with cars as far as I could see. It was a cold, rainy afternoon, which seemed fitting for our trip. It was as if the clouds were weeping with us.
As we drove through town, I was amazed by the number of people crowded into the small community. Reporters from major news stations parked their vans up and down the roads. Camera crews from around the world were interviewing people and reporting in multiple languages. Men, women, and children were streaming down the streets, carrying flowers, balloons, and stuffed animals. I looked out the window and saw 26 white angels with balloons. It was one among thousands of reminders that innocence has been taken from this place.
We parked our car on the side of road and began to walk in the rain towards Sandy Hook Elementary School. My heart felt weighed down with every step. The police would let us go only so far. The school is still considered a crime scene, and visitors are not allowed. We stood a few short miles away near a white sign that said “Sandy Hook School.” Under the sign lay mountains of crosses, teddy bears, and tea candles. People were huddled together to pay their respects and whisper their prayers. I’d never seen so many people come together in honor of such a great loss.
There was something beautiful about our unity. Even in our differences, a common thread of compassion for human life knit us together.
Love was being expressed on the streets of Newtown, CT. The hate-filled actions of one young man have made a mark on this town. Yet for one man’s evil, thousands have responded with acts of kindness. When I stood there among the visitors, I felt a force greater than hate. I felt the overwhelming force of love.
I believe that love will win the battle over fear in the hearts of man. I know that love will lift up the people of Newtown and make them stronger. A sign in the window of a shop echoed the feelings in my heart: “Love will get us through.”
After we placed our flowers with the others, we began a mile walk to Newtown High School. As we neared the high school, we saw a line that wrapped around the school. We took our place at the end, hoping there’d be enough room to fit us all in. The helpful volunteers of the Red Cross walked throughout the lines, offering us blankets, snack bars, water, and even stuffed puppy dogs. The lined moved quickly, and before too long, we entered Newtown High. The security measures were high, and Secret Service were all around us. Only the residents of the town were allowed in the auditorium. The rest of us were directed to the school gymnasium to watch the service on the big screen.
Even in light of America’s failings, as citizens, we still have much to be grateful for. I was thankful for our right to freely practice religion in public. I was grateful that we could gather and pray without fear of persecution. It’s a blessing to be able to worship as we please, without harassment or imprisonment.
Many things moved me during the service. The rabbi’s sorrowful song was a powerful reminder of the Jewish people who’ve suffered so much, yet still have faith. The reading of the 23rd psalm brought peace to my heart. The prayers for the first responders and families of the lost children were touching. The prayers from our governor, Dan Malloy, were needed.
President Obama spoke as a broken-hearted father. He expressed his sadness at the events, which made Friday the hardest day he’s served in office. He shared the powerful statement: “Newtown – you are not alone.” He offered a lighthearted story of a boy who told his teachers, “I can lead the way out, I know karate.” He did his best to enter into the pain of the people and bring reassuring words.
Obama said our nation will be judged for the way we treat the children. He is right. I earnestly hope he will one day understand what those words mean, especially in the light of the unborn. That is why we must continue to pray for him. Angry words and hatred towards our nation’s leader won’t change anything. Loving, persistent prayer is what unlocks the hearts of men.
I’ve heard some make an accusation that because our president is radically pro-choice, he must not have real compassion for the children’s lives that were lost in Newtown. That’s a dangerous viewpoint to have. Do pro-choice people not love their own children, or the children in their community? To those who think that way, I ask, “Have you ever cared about the loss of innocent life, even when you once believed that abortion was merely a women’s choice?”
I believe that Obama earnestly cares for the children of America, even while he is yet blinded to plight of the unborn. I am able to separate my feelings towards his policies from the love I feel for him as a fellow human being. Is it right to show love and honor only to those who think like we do? I’ll admit I was proud of our president for taking the time to show heartfelt care to the people in Newtown.
Where do we go from here? Funerals are scheduled for this week. Debates rage on about gun control, mental health, and school safety. Parents in Connecticut share posts on Facebook about being afraid to drop their kids off at school. I’ve had elementary school children ask me if this could happen to them. We are hurting in Connecticut, and throughout our land. We’re fearful and unsettled in our souls. We need peace and reassurance, but some aren’t sure where to find it.
I ask for your prayers in the days ahead. Please remember our state. It will be a long journey to healing, but your encouragement and prayers will help us along the way. Thank you for all who’ve prayed and shown your love. It makes a difference.