As we are all being reminded, tomorrow is the one-year anniversary of the Sandy Hook shooting which took the lives of children and adults. It is an event that reminds us how susceptible each of us is to violence and that no one age group or place is safe or sacred from the destruction caused by violence. At the same time, it is a reminder that life still goes on after bad things happen.
I do not know what propels people to watch countless hours of television, as reporters and the media regurgitate the same sound bites for hours. Yet, millions of televisions will inevitably broadcast images, the voices of so-called experts, stories of brokenness and hope, life and of course death.
While the media retells the story, again, we know that the families and town government have asked that we leave them alone and give them privacy. Families have asked people to stay away. If we listened, families could walk the streets of Newtown and remember or reflect, like I did last January when I visited with siblings. They could pop their head into the Misty Vale General Store and share their grief with locals, talking about what this past year has been like for them and the community. They could grab a bite to eat at Villa Restaurant and Pizza with a close friend. They could live their new lives without the disruption of our misplaced intentions.
When the grieving ask for privacy they do not mean, “Hey, please avoid knocking on our door and lurking in our garage.” I think they mean, stay away so that they can choose how to grieve in their own way and at their own home, within their community and without the media and gawkers. That is what I hear them asking for on this day.
So, I wonder. On this day when families ask for privacy and for us to turn our voyeurism into acts of kindness in OUR COMMUNITIES, what would happen if we turned off the television, avoided the news, and ignored, all together, any story about Newtown? Perhaps we could send a message to the media, and those who will choose to ignore the requests by creating chronic coverage, that we choose to respect the wishes of the bereaved.
While we continue to ask questions of “how and why” events like Sandy Hook happen and what we can do to help, it is true that we may want to talk about about gun control, access to mental health support, violence in American life, and all the other issues events like Sandy Hook provoke us to ponder. We should not, however, utilize this anniversary to remind ourselves (as if we ever had a moment to forget) that these questions run deep in our collective consciousness. This anniversary is Newton’s anniversary. The questions that need to be asked about this tragedy may be ours, but the grief that accompanies this anniversary is not about us and we must be clear about that distinction. I believe that clarity is the only thing separating us from respecting those who are filled with grief and those who wish to watch from the sidelines.
And for those of us who want to be supportive, often times that simply means listening and giving people the space they have requested.