WASHINGTON, December 17, 2012 – Today the first burials of children killed in the Sandy Hook shootings, Jack Pinot and Jacob Ponser, will take place in Newtown, Connecticut. It cannot be said enough, this is not the way it should be. Not now, the week before Christmas, not ever.
As we consider the bigger questions of gun control, mental illness and turning our schools into impenetrable sanctuaries, many are doing things, big and small, to express their grief and to let the people of Newtown, the parents, spouses, brothers and sisters, aunts and uncle, grandparents, friends and neighbors know that we know what happened.
You do not need to live in Newtown, or have a personal connection to the tragedy to feel, very deeply, a pervasive sadness and experts are counseling that we all need to protect ourselves, take care of ourselves as we grieve with them.
And we react to the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
LeVar Burton, “Reading Rainbow” host and a devotee of the late Fred Rogers, has suggested that we “take a bath,” go to the water, bathe our children in the comforting warmth.
On his blog, Mr. Burton counsels that we speak to our children honestly:
“If your children hear about this tragedy, it is natural for them to imagine “what if?” and “will it?” happen in my school? Am I safe??? Can this happen to me and my friends? Parents and teachers and caregivers should not shy away from directly discussing this with children who are concerned or anxious or fearful. Let them know their fear is normal, that it’s OK to be sad on behalf of those who died, and even frightened that it may happen to them. Then we must explain how they themselves are safe. That the gunman who caused this incident is no longer a threat to anyone. Tell them that their teachers and principals work every day to make sure their schools are safe, then as quickly as possible, get back to your normal routine! Be aware that for some kids they may never think about this again, while others may have nightmares or manifest their anxiety in other ways. Both are normal reactions.”
In Oakland and San Francisco, California, a gun buyback by the police had hundreds of Bay Area residents turning in their guns. In the San Francisco Chronicle, writer Justin Berton quotes resident Artutor Hurtado, who the writer describes as “stricken with grief” over the Sandy Hook massacre. “So he decided to get rid of his gun - “that darn thing.”
Football and the NFL has been embroiled in controversary (President Obama’s Newtown Interfaith Memorial speech and a football fumble) due to its decision to continue a game, even as President Obama spoke at last evening’s Interfaith vigil. However, the NFL did not forget nor ignore the tragedy. Before many games there were moments of silence and remembrance even as the Patriots lofted 26 flares into the sky to remember each of those that were murdered.
Players paid homage on their helmets, their shoes, and their gloves to show they too remembered.
Jack Pinto, age six, will be buried today, and reports are that he will be buried in the Number 80 jersey of his favorite football player, Victor Cruz of the New York Giants.
After learning about his young fan, Cruz did something simple, writing homage to Jack Pinto on his shoes, but also calling the family.
At the CBS New York web site Cruz is quoted as saying:
“I don’t even know how to put it into words,” Cruz said. “There are no words that can describe the type of feeling that you get when a kid idolizes you so much that unfortunately they want to put him in the casket with your jersey on. I can’t even explain it.”
There are reports of things that those covering this story are doing. Don Lemon, Dr. Sanjay Gupta and the other reporters from CNN speak of the hugs given and received by the people of Newtown.
A guest psychologist on the show says she is guiding her children in “twenty acts of good” - from donations to food banks to creating a toiletry set for a homeless man.
“Saturday Night Live” may have had one of the most heartbreaking tributes inviting the members of the New York City Children’s Chorus to sign “Silent Night,” with the tear invoking refrain, “Sleep in heavenly peace.” There was something very hard to watch in seeing these children sing for those children whose lives were destroyed.
The Interfaith Memorial Sunday night was without a doubt moving. President Obama offered words of comfort and words of action, but the message of this vigil is really the coming together of the vast, and diverse, religious community of the Interfaith Council of Southwestern Connecticut.
Though not spoken bluntly these religious leaders offered a lesson for the world about coming together in tragedy, but staying together in the days ahead. About that which should unite, not divide us.
The president says the people of Newtown have reminded the nation of “what matters” — and that it is how we raise children.
“Let the little children come to me, Jesus said, and do not hinder them,” Obama said, citing the Bible’s book of Matthew. “For to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.”
He then recited the name of the 20 children killed on Friday: “Charlotte. Daniel. Olivia. Josephine. Ana. Dylan. Madeleine. Catherine. Chase. Jesse. James. Grace. Emilie. Jack. Noah. Caroline. Jessica. Benjamin. Avielle. Alison.”
“God has called them all home,” the president said. “For those of us who remain, let us find the strength to carry on, and make our country worthy of their memory. May God bless, and keep those we’ve lost in his heavenly place. May he grace those we still have with his holy comfort. And may he bless and watch over this community, and the United States of America.”
At this time that Christians celebrate the birth of a child, the following religous leaders have us thinking of how the death of these children can change the world and how we are interacting within it.
Those leaders at the vigil included:
Reverand Matthew Crebbin, senior minister, Newtown Congregational Church, UCC Scripture: Psalm 46 –
Rabbi Shaul Praver, Congregational Adath Israel Prayer: For Those We lost –
The Rev Mel Kawakami,senior minister Newtown United Methodist Church. Prayer for those we lost
“We know those who are lost, because they’re ours, Lord — not names on some list, but our mothers, our sisters, our brothers, our friends. Kindred all — because if we did not know them ourselves, we know someone who did.”
The Rev Kathleen E. Adams-Shepard, Rector, Trinity Episcopal Church, the 23rd Psalm
The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures:
He leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul:
He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name’ sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil: For thou art with me;
Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies;
Thou annointest my head with oil; My cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the House of the Lord forever.
— King James Version
Reverand Jim Solomon, Pastor, New Hope Community Church Prayer: For the Children –
Jason Graves and Muadh Bhavnagarwala, Al Hedaya Islamic Center. Reading of the Koran and Prayer — “We ask God to grant those lost a special place in paradise. And we ask that their families to be granted the strength the endure the unendurable.”
Reverand Jane Sibley, Minister of Visitation and Spiritual Growth, Newtown United Methodist Church. Prayer: Emergency responders —
“We will be faithful to them, we will care for them,” she says. “We will continue to equip them. And we will keep them ever in our prayers.”
Dr. John Woodall, leader, Baha’i Faith Community. Reading/Prayer from the Baha’i Tradition,
Reverand Leo McIlrath, Ecumenical Chaplain, Lutheran Home of Southbury. Prayer: For Councilors, Clergy and Caregivers –
Reverand Pastor Jack Tanner, Minister, Elder, Newtown Christian Church. Scripture: Romans 8
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life;set me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature,God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.
Reverand Monsignor Robert Weiss, Pastor, St Rose of Lima Roman Catholic Church. Prayer: For Our Community –
Reverand Rob Mossis, Vicar, Christ the King Lutheran Church: Closing
Music was beautifully preformed by Fiona Smith Sutherland, Music Minister, Trinity Episcopal Church.
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