Dear Families and Friends,
On the Eve of the first anniversary of the Sandy Hook School shootings, our thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of the 20 first-graders and 6 educators who died, those who survived, and the community affected by this tragic event. This week there has been much attention focused on the need for school safety, the weaknesses in the mental health care system and the challenges of addressing violence in our country. All of these are very important issues and the voices of the families and the community will play a critical role in pushing for reforms to ensure that other families don’t suffer as they have.
As the anniversary approaches, I would like to address a different issue: the needs of the families and the Newtown community who experienced this tragedy to mourn in private. The loss of young lives in Newtown is an unfathomable tragedy that has taken center stage in national debates, and it can be tempting to think that their tragedy is ours. Some people may want to visit the town to pay their respects. The media may want to return to Newtown to report on how people are doing one year later.
My advice is: please respect their request for privacy.
At VOICES, we have worked for over 12 years with families who lost loved ones on 9/11, survivors and rescue workers. We have found firsthand that the anniversary is a particularly emotional time for those directly affected by a tragedy. It is a time for family members to grieve privately and for the community to come together to reflect and remember. Although many would appreciate messages of support, the glare of the national spotlight is simply not conducive to the healing process.
So how do we express our support? There are several ways you can do this. The Sandy Hook Families recently launched a website - www.MySandyHookFamily.org that honors the lives of those who were so tragically lost on 12/14 and highlights the wonderful foundations that have been established that will benefit others. We encourage you to visit the website which has been established as “a singular place of sharing, communication, and contact with the families of those who lost their lives that day.”
The American people have an amazing capacity for generosity and compassion. As someone who has been the recipient of both, I am immensely grateful. Let’s make sure that we extend our sympathy in a way that is conducive to the healing process for people who have already experienced a tremendous loss. Many of you in the 9/11 community may have insights into what was helpful to you and your family. If you would like to share your thoughts, contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or post a message on our Facebook.
As the Newtown community gathers to honor the lives lost, they will remain in our thoughts and prayers.