There are days in everyone's lives that are defining. Births, weddings, divorces, graduations all become indelibly imprinted upon our individual memories. They are the events that make us all unique. But there are also events that are defining upon our collective consciences. Pearl Harbor and September 11th were those type of events. They brought us together as a nation and give us an American mind and memory. The events of December 14, 2012 are one of those collective consciousness events. They event, as horrific as it was, has brought us together. We all grieve together.
We are a village. It sounds so trite, yet is so profound. We are connected, almost as closely as we are to our own blood relatives. We talk about six degrees of separation. There may actually be much less than that when we understand our connections to Newtown.
I think about my personal connection. Why does this tragedy affect me more than so many others? Why do I feel like I know those children, their families, the teachers? I've never been to Newtown. The closest that I've gotten have been drive throughs in Danbury. So what is happening?
I've spent my life as a husband, father, grandfather, brother, uncle, teacher, administrator, college professor, and psychologist. In every aspect of my life, children were the focus. Early in my career, through the direct teaching of children and later, in the teaching of those who were going to teach those children throughout the years. In 30 years of association with higher education, I would guess that I've worked with close to 5000 teachers. Those teachers have gone on to teach hundreds of thousands of children, at least some of them who have gone on to become teachers themselves. I do not know those children or remember every one of those teachers, but in my heart I feel that somewhere along the line, a little bit of my heart and soul is in Newtown.
It is easy for me to understand that I'm part of this national village. It is easy for me to understand that the children of Newtown, Connecticut and the brave teachers who died protecting them, are part of me. It is also easy for me to plead with all those throughout the nation to realize that Newtown is not only a town in Connecticut but every town, every city and every state in our nation. We raise our children together. We share them with the others in our village and always hope and pray that those others who come in contact with them, love and protect them as much as we do.
We may never know what drove this disturbed young man to this horrible act. But we can come together as a national village. We can come together to work one with another to make this village called the United States safer for our children. We can come together and work with one another to provide those with severe mental illnesses to get the help they need. We can be a village without politics and without interest groups who come together to keep our children, our teachers, and yes, all of our citizens safe.
I am part of a national village. You are part of the same village. For all of us, the priority is to come together and protect our children. We are the adults. We have the chance to make a difference. Let's do it.