Everything changed in Newtown, Connecticut Friday. It was a day that started out as normally as any other, I suppose.
Parents dropped kids off at school, where they would learn, have fun, develop social skills and, most importantly, be safe. Then those parents went on to work or back home to take care of business, just like so many others did across the country.
Their normalcy plunged into purgatory not long after, though. Around 9:30 a.m, a man identified as 20-year-old Adam Lanza, motives still unknown or at least unpublicized, raged through Sandy Hook Elementary School with two pistols and a semi-automatic rifle, killing 20 children and six adults. The massacre crushed the small community, located about 60 miles northeast of New York City, and broke hearts around the world.
Lanza wasn’t around to face any consequences or witness any grief resulting from his rampage. He was found dead at the school; he had shot himself.
Saturday morning, I was at the YMCA watching my daughter, Sophia, play basketball with other 5 and 6-year-olds. At one point, I counted 19 children between the court and the benches—just one shy of the number of precious innocents lost in Newtown. A friend told me to count each of those 19 children as blessings, and I did.
I wondered how many children in Newtown should have been playing basketball at their local Y Saturday morning. On a normal Saturday morning. Or how many were supposed to be taking swim lessons or karate or just watching cartoons.
Newtown is in many ways, I imagine, much like Huntsville and other communities. We have good people and bad people, but many more good than bad. And bad people can turn up anywhere, exploding in the most unexpected and unbelievable places, including an elementary school full of young, promising students who had their whole lives ahead of them.
The promise ended for 20 of those children Friday, and for the friends and family who loved them dearly. Millions of us are affected by the tragedy, at least emotionally, even though we are miles away from the gruesome crime scene. So what can we do? I figure there is power in numbers and there is power in prayer.
We can pray for crushed spirits and broken hearts scattered throughout Newtown. We can pray that they find themselves wrapped in God’s strength, light and love and we can pray that they won’t drive themselves into greater despair by trying to make sense of something so devastatingly senseless.
And we can hold our own children with all our might for as long as we possibly can.