Parent-In-Chief: “We Are All Parents…They’re All Our Children”

I can’t close my eyes, or hug my 2-year-old daughter, or talk to my parents, or call my sisters, without seeing the faces of the 26 souls that lose their lives on Friday, in the horrific shooting in Newtown, Connecticut.  I grew up in the neighboring town of Monroe, which is where my parents still live – and the home to what will become the new school for the students of Sandy Hook Elementary.   Although I did not know anyone involved personally, I am absolutely beside myself with grief.  And I know that my grief is absolutely nothing compared to what the family and friends of the 26 victims are feeling.

Every time I see or hear the name of this town, Newtown, Connecticut, my stomach drops, and think about the bucolic New England area that is the quintessential “Anytown USA.”   I ask myself, “How could this possibly have happened so close to where I grew up – to the place where I feel so incredibly safe?”  But the very sad reality is that it could have happened anywhere.  Despite attempts to the contrary, I can’t help but feeling like we have reached a point that nowhere is safe – especially for our children, and it so incredibly sad.   I can’t live with that feeling.

I know I am not alone. 

This tragedy hurts in ways that I didn’t think it was possible to hurt.  We feel for these parents in a manner that cuts through and touches the very core of who we are.  And despite my years of wholly believing that everything happens for a reason – there is absolutely no reason for something of this nature to ever take place. 

In my search for solace, I watched the Interfaith Prayer Vigil that took place in Newtown on Sunday evening, in which a number of religious men and women from diverse faiths addressed the community.  I listened intently, and I connected with something every single one of them said.

At that moment, I felt my own healing process begin. 

Through my tears, I saw how much we all have in common – instead of focusing on the differences that can unfortunately divide us at times.  This is a representation of the world our children deserve to be raised in.  One where we can pray together, calling God by whichever name we know him best, and offer insight and perspective and comfort to one another in times of greatest need.

When President Obama took the podium, he began speaking as Parent-In-Chief, and he spoke to the anxiety and concerns parenthood brings, saying, “Someone once described the joy and anxiety of parenthood as the equivalent of having your heart outside of your body all of time, walking around.”   

Yes, Mr. President, yes it is.

And he went on to say, “So it comes as a shock at a certain point when you realize no matter how much you love these kids, you can’t do it by yourself…this job of protecting and teaching them well is something we can only do together, with the help of friends and neighbors, with the help of a community, and the help of a nation.”

The teachers and aides, and school psychologist, they are all our teachers.  The principal – she is our principal.  They did everything they could to help protect the children of Sandy Hook Elementary School. “They responded as we all hope we might respond in such terrifying circumstances: with courage, and with love, giving their lives to protect the children in their care,” said President Obama.  And for that, we are forever grateful.

The children, as President Obama accurately captured – “they are all our children.” 

They are.  They really are.  And so we have no choice but to heal, to work to build a world that will never let this happen again, so that when those families are ready to take their own steps towards healing, they are given strength by seeing all of the work being done to make this world a better place, and a safer place. 

We owe that to them, and to the memory of those lost.  It is the very least we can do.