Tonight, my family and I attended a vigil remembering the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. I had spoken to my twelve year old daughter and sixteen year old son about the event as I was sure they’d hear about from friends in their own schools. I needed them to know that they were safe. Perhaps telling them so made me feel just a little bit better as I prepare to send them back to school tomorrow. Yet I couldn’t bear to tell my youngest. As we are all aware, we grieve not only for the adults lost but for the smallest of voices silenced on Friday morning.
Allyson is the same age. I can’t take that innocence away from her. Not yet. I can’t tell her news that would possibly make her feel unsafe or heighten her anxiety. It’s hard not to pull her into a hug at every moment, and I couldn’t share with her why we had gathered on the steps of the Church in town on a cold, rainy evening. Yet she stood there, quiet and respectful, whispering softly whenever she needed to speak with me. She sang in her boldest voice, though she did not know the words of the songs, and bowed her head though she has not been formally taught to pray.
A crowd of around one hundred hugged and held candles that swiftly blew out due to wind. We prayed for the victims and spoke of forgiveness. We listened and cried as each name was read complete with age, inciting anger and sorrow within our hearts. We stared in awe as the last name was called and a small table stood beautifully bold and full of the fire of lives snuffed out just two days ago.
The candle that Allyson held in her hands quickly flickered out due to the wind. Unable to bear her disappointment, I gave her mine and held her darkened tea light. Lexie’s flame faded and was quickly followed by the light Will held in his hand. Allie found all of this quietly amusing until her candle once again succumbed to the weather. My father quickly remedied the situation, offering our family’s last light to her which held for the remainder of the ceremony.
My heart is with the victims and the families of Newtown, CT. I reflect in silence and respect of the first and last responders who waded through hell and will forever remember the horror of that day. As people, we grieve for those who were lost, whose lights were so quickly dimmed and smothered. As parents, unbelievable grief touches us in our souls and stomachs, wishing that no one should experience the void of a lost child, or mother, or son or daughter.
I stood there on those steps, watched my breath dissolve with each syllable of song and thought about all of this. This moment, these last few days, the passing, so thoughtfully of a flame from grandfather to granddaughter, so that she could cup that light in her hand. There was no thought to these actions. It was immediate, just as sure as the intentions of teachers who selflessly stepped in front of bullets to protect their students.
To me, Allyson represented all those little lights tonight. She held them and protected them all in the last candle that didn’t go out.