We know their names.
We know their faces.
We know that six-year-old Olivia Engel led grace at her family dinner table each night and that Grace McDonnell, who just celebrated her seventh birthday in November, often wrote messages to her mother on the family’s foggy bathroom window. We know that six-year-old Jack Pinto was small in stature but exploding with dedication for his favorite football team — the New York Giants.
We know about the lives of each and every victim; interviews have flashed across our TV screens, photos can be seen on every news and social media site and penetrating questions have entered our minds as we all try to come to terms with how something this tragic could happened.
But, what we have all found the most troubling from this heartbreak is that we may never know why.
We will never know why seven-year-old Daniel Barden will never become a firefighter or why Noah Pozner, age six, will never be able to open up a taco business in honor of his favorite food. Jessica Rekos, a true lover of horses whose life ended at the age of six, will never be able to see her parents live out their promise to her that she would receive her very own horse at the age of 10.
I grew up in Southbury, Conn., my entire life, just five minutes away from Newtown. My mother works at Newtown High School in the guidance department, and my family attends church at St. Rose of Lima just a bit up the road from our favorite diner, Newtown’s Blue Colony. Newtown is part of my childhood and part of my future.
Before the shootings at Columbine, those of us located on the opposite side of the country knew little-to-nothing about the high school located in Littleton, Colorado. Whenever we hear about Columbine today, our minds immediately think solely about the violence and heartbreak that ensued there.
Since Newtown is a small town that is unknown to many, even to people who live in Connecticut, it is unfortunate that those located across the country and globe will most likely think only the same of Newtown. But I implore those of you who did not know anything about Newtown before the shootings not to remember the carnage, but to remember the strides taken to heal since then.
The sign outside of Sandy Hook Elementary reads: “Visitors Welcome.” It is heart-wrenching that on one ordinary winter’s day, a visitor abused that welcoming nature and shattered lives forever. However, in honor of Newtown, we must try, even those who have never heard of and may never visit Newtown, to propel positive memories of it into the future. We must not perpetuate its association with violence but instead admire what community members are doing to grieve, cope and recover. Most significantly though, let’s remember how people have come together to honor the victims whose lives were so tragically cut short.
The community took action to heal after the shootings remarkably quickly. Immediately after the shootings, students, faculty and families in the Newtown community created t-shirts and wristbands, tens of thousands sported in the immediate area and across the nation. Therapy dogs and their handlers drove miles in vans from Nebraska and Illinois to be available for the entire region of schools. Additionally, there will be a 5k in March. Memorials spread across the town, from Newtown High School to St. Rose of Lima to the elementary school itself, with the kindest of words, the most heartfelt of condolences and piles of teddy bears from places as close as neighboring towns and as far as Germany and India.
We will never know why Victoria Soto, age 27, lost her life doing something she loved so much. We will never know why Dawn Hochsprung had to valiantly pass at age 47, when she had just recently made grand efforts to heighten school security, ensuring that no one had anything to fear when it came to going to school.
And those of you who know little about the Newtown community may always feel unsure that Newtown will ever recover. But I am certain that it will.
The holes in the hearts of family members, the immediate community, the nation and the world will never be filled—but those wounds will become scars.
These scars will remain as on our lives from those gone for those left behind—as instruction for us to bear witness to the past, and when faced with the choice, to always choose love.