When I opened my Internet browser last Friday morning and saw the horrific act of violence that had occurred in Connecticut, my impulse was to ignore the report.
“Don’t look at it,” I thought. “It’s too horrible to think about.” I had gleaned from first glance that small children were involved. I didn’t want to let those images enter my psyche. Too scary. But the headline included the words “Sandy Hook” and that triggered a memory. David Wheeler, an old friend of mine from college with whom I had recently reconnected via Facebook, lived in Sandy Hook. Suddenly, this was no longer just another tragic news story that I preferred to avoid. I wanted to know that my friend and his family were safe. I checked his Facebook page to see if he had posted anything, but all I saw were dozens of messages with a similar theme: “Hope all is well. Sending you our positive thoughts. Please check in when you can.” I added my own message of hope for the well-being of his family and neighbors. But David had not yet posted anything.
I kept searching the Internet for any new information and checking David’s page for an acknowledgment of his children’s safety. Then, about 9:00 pm west coast time, the messages on his page changed: “There are no words to express our sorrow. Our hearts are breaking for you.” My own heart sank. An hour later, I was included in a group communication from another of our college friends that confirmed David’s son, Benjamin, was among the victims at Sandy Hook Elementary. I was overwhelmed with sadness. I experienced only a small, peripheral fraction of what David and his wife must have endured, and it was more than I could bear. I couldn’t stop crying. I stayed up late reading the messages from my old friends, many of whom I hadn’t thought about for over 30
I was overwhelmed with sadness. I experienced only a small, peripheral fraction of what David and his wife must have endured, and it was more than I could bear. I couldn’t stop crying. I stayed up late reading the messages from my old friends, many of whom I hadn’t thought about for over 30 years and shared in our collective mourning. Before I went to bed that night I went into Oliver’s room and watched him sleep for a bit.
At 3:00 pm on Saturday, David finally posted a message:
Benjamin Andrew Wheeler
September 9, 2006 – December 14, 2012
“Take him and cut him out in little stars,
And he will make the face of heaven so fine
That all the world will be in love with night.”
Your thoughts and love have sustained us.
The message included the time and location of the memorial service and ended with the words, “We love you, Benny.” The picture of this beautiful, little boy, looking up with pure innocence in his eyes, was devastating. I know people find comfort in the phrase, “Everything happens for a reason,” but that just doesn’t apply in this case. This random act of destruction forces us to face the terrifying reality of our own vulnerability. It could happen to anybody, anywhere, anytime. As I dropped Oliver off at pre-school this morning, I couldn’t help thinking of the families that had done the same thing just four days earlier, with no possible way of knowing how their lives would be shattered that day.
I don’t read these stories because it’s too frightening to consider something like this happening to our own kid. But the truth is that every kid is our kid. That hit home with me this weekend.
Author Profile: @steveamick