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Posts Tagged ‘Sandy Hook Elementary School’

Protecting America’s Children

In Family, Life, Life Lessons on December 21, 2012 at 9:39 am

Sandy Hook victims

The sky was a flawless shade of blue on the morning of 9/11/01 in New York City, and everything was right with the world.  At 8:46am, everyone believed that a tragic accident had occurred with a small plane hitting the Twin Towers.  By 9:03am, when the second plane hit the towers, we all knew that wasn’t the case.  Instantly, the America that we once knew was gone.  From that moment on, every American had no choice but to accept the realization that terrorist attacks can happen on American soil.

We failed as a nation to protect innocent citizens on that day.  Shortly thereafter, we beefed up national security, and to date, we have not suffered any casualties from terrorist attacks on American soil.

Since 9/11/01 there have been over twenty school shootings, and yet, we have still not stepped up as a nation to address this problem.

We have successfully thwarted terrorist attacks by Muslim extremists on U.S. soil, but as a nation, we are failing to protect our most precious resource…the children of America!

There are many issues that need addressing if we are going to stop the terrorism that we are experiencing in schools, but one issue is paramount.

Should we ban assault rifles for private citizens?  It would be a good start, but it is not a cure-all.

Should we provide more help to people with mental illnesses?  Absolutely.  But again, not a cure-all.

What if we allowed prayer in schools?  It may make a lot of people feel better, but it will not stop a maniacal gunman from shooting up a school.

All of these issues should be addressed, but there is one step that should be taken immediately to keep our children safe in school.

The time has come for America to beef up security in our schools the way that we did immediately after the 9/11 attacks.  The terrorists that have succeeded in carrying out their missions over the past 11 years are not Muslim extremists; they are young, disturbed, heavily armed, white males who share the same disregard for human life as the terrorists who attacked our country on 9/11.  They have been able to carry out their missions against innocent, defenseless targets with little to no resistance, and we simply cannot sit idly by and hope that this won’t happen again.  We have to proactively stop it from happening.

Unfortunately, we must fight fire with fire, and that does not mean arming teachers and principals as some have suggested.  A teacher’s job is challenging enough without having to add the responsibility of becoming an expert marksman to the list.  However, the country is filled with people who can handle the job, trained policeman and military veterans to name a few.

On 9/11/01, we learned a valuable lesson about our nation’s security vulnerabilities.  Since that time, we have had multiple school shootings, but we still have not learned our lesson.   We shake our heads in disbelief when there is a shooting at a high school.  We are sad for the families who suffer losses and we pray that it never happens in our local high school.

What happened at Sandy Hook Elementary School has shaken the nation to its core.  Because the victims were so young and innocent, we cannot fathom how anyone can look into a terrified child’s eyes and pull the trigger without hesitation.  In many ways, this unspeakable tragedy is as bad as what happened on 9/11/01.  In some ways, it is worse.

On 12/14/12, in a tightknit rural community in Connecticut, the last bit of innocence that we had left in America was mercilessly taken away from us all in one fell swoop.  We MUST do whatever it takes to make sure that a tragedy like this never happens again!

Nothing that we do going forward will bring back the innocent victims whose lives ended way too soon.  The families that they left behind will never be the same, and no amount of time that passes will ever help to fill the void created by their passing.

The best that we can all hope for at this point is for this tragedy to serve as a wake-up call to America to do what is necessary to protect our children.

 

Please click here to learn more about each Sandy Hook Elementary School victim (slideshow in the middle of the page).

 

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The Downside of Progress…The Upside of Simpler Times

In Family, Life on December 17, 2012 at 10:25 am

nostalgia

It was over 35 years ago on this date that my family and I moved to Long Island from Queens.  Although the people who bought the house from my parents have now lived there longer than we did, I will always consider it home.

I still remember my first day in the house.  We got there ahead of the movers, so there was no furniture in the house yet.  My siblings and I sat on the carpeted kitchen floor eating Hostess Cupcakes off of a small plastic outdoor patio table.  I was a bit nervous to go to a new school, particularly in the middle of the year, but I was excited about living in a nice house with a huge backyard.

Although starting in a new school is never easy, my first week was fun because it was the week before Christmas break.  Everyone was in high spirits, and the classwork was kept to a minimum because the school was in holiday mode.  It didn’t take long for me to start making friends, and by the time the break came around a week later, I was already playing outside with other kids in the neighborhood.

It was a long, cold winter that year, and though I had a lot of fun in the snow, I was happy for spring to arrive.  Before long, I was riding my bike down the block to go play sports with my friends, and playing little league baseball for the first time.  We didn’t need organized sports as much because we played on our own, but I enjoyed it just the same.

Our new house had a push button phone, a step-up from the rotary phone in our house in Queens.  Our family room had cable television, a step-up from the rabbit ears that we had in Queens.  Other than that, there was no other technology to make our lives “easier.”

When the phone rang, we all wanted to answer it, hoping that it was a call for us.  Today we use caller ID to properly direct the calls to the appropriate family member, or worse, to screen a call that you’re not in the mood to take.  The phone had a cord that kept you tethered nearby.  We didn’t have cordless phones, much less smartphones that are so addicting that you feel lost if the battery dies or you forget to bring it with you.

If we wanted to watch a particular television show, we made sure to be in front of the TV when it was on.  There was no DVR, much less on demand.  We had one shot to see the show, and if we missed it, the moment was gone.  Shows like The Wizard of Oz were special because they were only shown once each year, and it was usually an event that the family looked forward to sharing together.

There was no Internet.  If we wanted to know something, we had to go to the library to get the information.  We couldn’t just “Google it.”

We got our news from newspapers, television and radio from professional journalists who were more concerned with getting it right than being first, which nowadays leads to an incredible amount of misinformation spreading like wildfire.  We had the information that we needed not every graphic detail about a story because the news was about the highlights.  The 24/7 news cycle is probably the most detrimental “progress” that we have experienced in our lifetime, as it has done little to inform, but has contributed greatly to the divisive society that has engulfed America.

Social media has succeeded in connecting us to people who were once a part of our lives, but more importantly, it has failed us because it allows us to disconnect from actual face-to-face contact and phone conversations.  It has also become a place where bullying is very common, and it is not limited to kids in school.  Adults are equally as abusive to those who don’t agree with their point of view.  Before social media, we knew the views of those who we spoke to directly, but had no idea what our hundreds and hundreds of “friends” were thinking about any given subject.

In spite of all of the “progress” that we have made through technology, given the choice, I would gladly go back to the way life was when I was a kid.

Nostalgia has a funny way of removing the tarnish from every memory, leaving behind nothing by precious gems to be cherished, but I still wish that my children could experience the childhood that I had when things were simpler.

Was my life perfect?  Absolutely not!  But it was better for sure.

We were able to eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich without worrying that it might kill one of our classmates who has a deadly peanut allergy, undoubtedly a result of the “progress” that we’ve made in making less expensive, processed food.

We played organized sports, but didn’t rely on them to be our only source of exercise.  We rode our bikes to parks and played with friends until dark.

We didn’t live in a state of constant fear, and we certainly never thought about getting gunned down in school.

We couldn’t possibly have imagined what life would be like for our kids back then, but I can say now that I never would have expected life to be like this.

This date used to be a happy one for me to reflect back upon my childhood and my life on Long Island, but today it’s not.

Today, I walked my kids into their elementary school with hesitation.  A lady whom I’ve never met gave me a smile of support as she saw me hug and kiss my little one goodbye and watch her walk down the hall as I always do.  When my daughter was out of sight, she came over to me and introduced herself as the new superintendent.  She clearly saw the anguish on my face that I’ve been trying to hide all weekend since the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy.  She told me that she wants to build a fortress around the school.  I agreed that it would be a good idea.  We both had tears in our eyes.

When I left the building, I stopped to speak to the teacher aide from my daughter’s class.  My wife and I grew very fond of her last year when she volunteered to walk my daughter to her Kindergarten class every day because of her separation anxiety.  She didn’t know my daughter, but she saw a little girl in distress and wanted to help.  Needless to say, my wife and I were thrilled when we found out that she was going to be in my daughter’s classroom this year.

I asked her how she was doing and she told me that she spent the whole weekend crying.  She has been in this school for nearly 20 years, and she still thinks of each kid in her classroom as “her kids.”  We talked about how she and I sat next to each other building gingerbread houses on Friday while the unspeakable tragedy was being carried out in Newtown, CT.  We talked about the innocence of the kids in the class, all of whom are the same age as the kids who perished in Sandy Hook Elementary School.  She told me that she would gladly step in front of her kids and take a bullet to protect them, and I didn’t doubt what she said for a second.  I know that she would, but I wish that it wasn’t necessary to even discuss this hypothetical scenario.  We both had tears in our eyes as we said goodbye to each other this morning.

There’s something to be said for the simpler times I enjoyed.

What if It Was Your Child?

In Family, Life, Life Lessons on December 15, 2012 at 3:24 pm

Disbelief

Every time there is a shooting tragedy, gun lovers immediately launch into their usual 2nd Amendment diatribe.  In light of the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT, where 20 innocent children perished at the hands of a gun-wielding maniac, I was hoping that we would be spared the “guns don’t kill people…people kill people” rhetoric, but that seems to be nothing more than wishful thinking on my part.

I’ve always stayed away from proactively taking a public stance on this issue because it is so divisive, but in light of the slaughtering of innocent children, I decided that it was worth the risk of ruffling some feathers.

I believe that people should have the right to possess a weapon for self-defense, but I see no purpose in stockpiling weapons or possessing assault rifles, both of which go well beyond the scope of self-defense.

To those who staunchly disagree with my position, I have one simple question for you…

What if it was your child?

Take a moment before you post another rant about the 2nd Amendment, or another pro-gun image, and put yourself in the place of the parents who lost their children yesterday in Newtown, CT.

Close your eyes and imagine dropping your child or children off at elementary school.  You give them a hug and a kiss, tell them you love them and to have a good day.  You go about your day business as usual, with the full expectation that you will see your child at the end of the day like you always do.

Now imagine that you get a notification from the elementary school shortly after the school day begins.  You find out that there has been a shooting in your town, and your stomach is instantly tied up in knots.  Then you find out that the shooting has taken place at your child’s school.

You get into your car and drive as fast as humanly possible to the school where you are given instructions to wait outside, not knowing whether your child was a victim or not.

You see a line of children walking together in single file, their tiny hands resting on the shoulders of the classmate in front of them to guide them because they have been told to keep their eyes closed as they exit to shelter them from seeing the carnage that has taken place moments earlier.

You wait and watch as parents are reunited with their children, hugging, kissing and crying uncontrollably (parents and children alike).  You pray that your child will be the next one out the door, and you wait.  And you wait.  And you wait some more as you watch parent after parent breathing an emotional sigh of relief that their child is safe.

Now picture that the school officials come out and tell you that there will be no more reunions, and you are amongst the 20 sets of parents that is left standing, knowing that you may never see your child again.  You pray in disbelief that there must have been some mistake.  It’s tragic beyond words what has happened, but you can’t imagine that it can happen to you.  Not to your precious, innocent child who has so much more living to do.  Not to your child who gave you a hug and kiss and told you that they loved you just hours before.  The world can’t possibly be that cruel…can it?

Sadly, the answer is “yes,” the world can be that cruel.  And now you are left to pick up the pieces to be there for your other children.

Do you go home, look at their room, their photos and every other reminder of them and crumble to the ground wishing that you had been the one to take the bullet so that they could have lived?

Or do you sit down at the computer, login to Facebook, and shout to the world that you lost your child because there are not enough guns in the world?

Do you stand on a virtual soapbox raging about how we need to protect the 2nd Amendment at all costs regardless of the increase in the number of senseless shootings that take the lives of so many innocent people?

Do you even for a minute think to yourself…guns don’t kill people…people kill people?

The End of the Innocence

In Family, Life, Life Lessons on December 14, 2012 at 3:56 pm

Sandy Hook Elementary

“It was the best of times…it was the worst of times.”

Today started off on a high note.  My little one was excited that we were invited to her first grade class to help build gingerbread houses.  While we were helping her with her gingerbread house, my wife and I whispered and laughed to ourselves at how rundown our house looked compared to others in the class.

I sang the lyrics to a song that we both like in her ear, and we laughed some more.  The song is called “The Crazy Ones.”  In the song it says “we march to the beat of a different drum.”  While our gingerbread house didn’t look good in the traditional sense, I was proud of my little one’s originality.

She didn’t compare her house to others, and didn’t seem to care that ours was messy looking.  All she cared about was having fun and eating candy.  In a perfect world, that’s about all kids her age should care about.

Tragically, today proved that innocence is not guaranteed for kids of any age.

I brought my daughter home from school early after the gingerbread decorating was done.  She was up in her room when my phone rang.  It was my father-in-law, obviously distraught as he told me about the senseless shooting that happened this morning at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT.  He was warning me not to turn on the news in front of the kids.

My heart sank as we spoke.  As soon as we hung up, I went right upstairs to hug and kiss my little girl and tell her that I loved her.  We’re always very affectionate, so she thought nothing of it, but inside, I was still trying to wrap my head around this devastating news.

For the past few days, one of my daughter’s front teeth has been hanging by a thread, but it didn’t seem ready to come out yet.  Once I heard this news, I was hoping that she would just leave it alone because I didn’t want the loss of her first front tooth to come on the same day of the Sandy Hook tragedy.  But it wasn’t meant to be.  As I was watching the news, she came to the top of the stairs with blood dripping from her mouth.

I had no choice but to pull the tooth, and comfort her as she cried hysterically at the sight of the blood.  I held her tight and assured her that everything was going to be okay.  And it will be, at least as far as the tooth is concerned, but after seeing the news today, it’s hard for me to believe that everything will actually be okay.

The world is a fucked up place nowadays.  We lost our innocence as a nation on 9/11/01, and we’ve seen more school shootings than any of us ever thought possible.  But the shooting of little, innocent, elementary school kids goes beyond anything that our minds can comprehend.  The last safe haven that we had no longer exists, and this is truly the end of the innocence.

I keep thinking about all of the joy that I experienced today with fellow parents decorating gingerbread houses with our first graders.  Everyone was happy, smiling, content in our little corner of the world.  I can’t even imagine what would possess anyone to stare into the eyes of all of those innocent faces, point a gun at them and pull the trigger. I’m glad that the shooter is dead, but I wish that he would have killed himself before walking into an elementary school with an assault rifle in his hands and malice in his heart.

I pray for the parents of those who inexplicably lost their child today in this tragedy.  Their worlds will never be the same.  Quite frankly, none of us will ever be the same either.

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