Quiet remembrance of Sandy Hook tragedy

Child angel on tombstone (CNS photo by Bob Roller)

Child angel on tombstone (CNS photo by Bob Roller)

There will not be exhaustive news coverage Dec. 14 on the one-year anniversary of the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

That’s because Newtown’s First Selectman Pat Llodra specifically asked the media to stay away and give the townspeople  “the time to be alone and quiet, with time for personal and communal reflection.”

According to The Washington Post, which won’t be in Newtown this weekend, the other media outlets that won’t be there include: CNN, Fox News, ABC News, CBS News, NBC News, NPR, PBS NewsHour, the New York Times, USA Today. The Associated Press will have reporters in the town marking the anniversary of the deaths of 20 children and six educators at the school. The gunman, Adam Lanza, also shot his mother, Nancy Lanza, at their Sandy Hook home the morning of Dec. 14 and later committed suicide at the school.

Margaret Low Smith, senior vice president for news at National Public Radio, told the Post she didn’t remember a similar media blackout for the first anniversaries of other tragedies that gained national attention, but added:  “We’re all human beings, and we get it.”

Another news consideration, beyond respect for the community, is that there will be no public events in Newtown to mark the anniversary. Local churches and faith communities are planning special services Dec. 14 and plan to ring bells 26 times at 9:30 a.m. to honor each victim.

Woman touches sign at Newton, Conn., memorial (CNS photo from Reuters)

Woman touches sign at Newton, Conn., memorial (CNS photo from Reuters)

Bishop Frank J. Caggiano of Bridgeport, Conn., will celebrate the 9:30 a.m. Mass Dec. 14 at St. Rose of Lima Parish in Newtown, the site of eight funerals from the Sandy Hook shooting. After Mass, an outdoor sanctuary will be dedicated and that evening there will be a candlelight prayer service and dedication of the Angel of Hope statue recently installed in front of the parish school.

Msgr. Robert “Bob” Weiss, pastor of St. Rose, wrote in Dec. 7-8 parish bulletin under the “Message from Msgr. Bob” column that he knew there would be “heavy hearts” at this anniversary.

Here are his words to the parish community:

We have found great strength through the witness of the most impacted families who even in their unspeakable grief help hold each one of us up by their courage and the positive actions they are taking to honor their loved ones. It is love and love alone that keeps them and us moving forward. It is also a time of great gratitude for the incredible amount of support we have received from throughout the world.

I am certain that there is not one family in our community who has not had a call, conversation, letter of concern or the assurance of prayers from outside the community. In the darkness we have been gifted by the light of many who understand our brokenness and want only to let us know that we are not alone and that healing will be ours in time. Gratitude is an important human aspect of human life, especially in times like these. I am personally grateful for all the support that I have been given from people throughout the world who realize that it is only in faith that we can move forward and find the strength and hope that we need. I am especially grateful for the faith of this parish community.

Woman at memorial near Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., Dec. 16, 2012. (CNS photo from Reuters)

Woman at memorial near Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., Dec. 16, 2012. (CNS photo from Reuters)

Father Larry Snyder, president of Catholic Charities USA, wrote in his blog that it is hard to believe a year has passed since the school shootings. He also lamented that during the year political efforts at stemming access to assault weapons have failed  “and the plague of gun violence continues to claim innocent lives.”

The priest echoed his call of a year ago, when he joined faith leaders from across the country calling on Congress to pass sensible legislation aimed at reducing the likelihood of a similar mass shooting.

Father Snyder pointed out that not long after Christmas the church celebrates the feast of the Holy Innocents, children murdered by King Herod’s armies after Christ’s birth. He said the children killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School were also innocents, too young to comprehend the evil that was befalling them.

“We seek to remember their promise and honor their lives by working to ensure that never again must we witness the heartbreaking scene of parents forced to bury their children,” he added.

Please join me in prayer for the children and teachers lost one year ago, and for their families. May perpetual light shine on the innocents of Newtown, and may God grant us success in our efforts to prevent these tragedies from ever happening again.

The website created by families of victims of Sandy Hook shooting does not address gun violence but simply acknowledges that many people want to know what to do on the anniversary of this tragedy.

It suggests that people “consider performing an act of kindness or volunteering with a charitable organization in your local community.  In this way, we hope that some small measure of good may be returned to the world.”

That advice has all the more poignancy after the Dec. 13 school shooting at Arapahoe High School in Centennial, Colo., where one student was shot and critically wounded by a heavily armed male student  said to be looking to confront a faculty member before shooting and killing himself.  The school is about eight miles east of Columbine High School in Littleton, where two teenage shooters killed 12 classmates and a teacher before killing themselves in 1999.

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