I Believe in Sandy Hook

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Terrible things happen in the world. But it’s easy to believe bad things only happen to other people, in other places. On December 14, 2012, I lost that naivety. When a shooter walked into Sandy Hook Elementary School, my heart broke.

I’m a student at Penn State, but Newtown is my second home.

I know people who were in that building. My friends are neighbors with these families. I skate with those kids at Ram’s Pasture in the winter, and swim with them at Lake Zoar in the summer. That day, my family and friends in Newtown, Connecticut lost more than their sense of security; they lost their children and their friends.

Throughout town, hearts are broken. Everyone is in a state of disbelief. This cannot possibly be reality. Yet with every coming day, every neighbor’s story and every picture, this tragedy becomes our reality.

When I finally got home for winter break, I drove through the quiet wooded neighborhoods of Newtown. I saw trooper cars in driveways and a dark cloud of sorrow above these houses. I realized that even as a neighbor, I cannot fully understand their pain. Outsiders can block out this tragedy and carry on with their day-to-day lives; but to these families, this tragedy is real every day. With this thought I understand that they do not need our pity, they need our love.

Then through all this darkness, light emerges. We see random acts of kindness as strangers and neighbors offer their support. One person handed out roses to local shoppers, and another bought every coffee at the General Store for a day. Other people made pies for funeral attendees or snow for the kids at Treadwell Park. Thousands of donated toys and stuffed animals were shipped to Newtown. Signs of encouragement and welcome lined the drive from Newtown to Chalk Hill School; the site of Sandy Hook Elementary’s temporary home. Communities in all corners of the world held candle light vigils.

These actions surround those who have lost someone with love and support, and remind the rest of us how lucky we are to be with those we love. Newtown can feel the warm embrace of the entire country. These actions do not bring a sorry reminder of what is lost; the actions of strangers bring hope for tomorrow.

With each day I feel the strength of my community. We will overcome this tragedy by honoring the memory of those lost. The tenacity of the human spirit will build a better future for the kids who did survive. As we attempt to get back to our everyday lives, we do so with heavy hearts. We know what we lost will never be replaced, but together we can heal.

I believe in the strength of a community. I believe in Sandy Hook.

-Kelsey McDonnell

Image credit: David Goldman/AP

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