An Open Letter to Sandy Hook

An Open Letter to Sandy Hook

Earth has no sorrow...that heaven cannot heal.
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Dear Sandy Hook,

The intercom came on in the middle of class. It never comes on in the middle of class. The principal’s voice booms over the loudspeaker: “There has been a shooting at the elementary school in Sandy Hook. We are currently on lockdown.” Eyes look around astonished searching for explanation. Hearts beat fast and everyone is at a loss for words. Questions race through each mind in the room, each mind in the school. And soon they start slipping out of our mouths: Why an elementary school? Why here? Who would do such a thing? But the gravest question was kept silent: How many lives were taken today? Rumors flew around and as the day continued, the full story was starting to form. The remainder of the day went by slower than time ever had. Televisions were broadcasting the news in the library, students were on the phone with parents and family members, and there was a looming cloud of fright over the entire school.

When I returned home that day, the news was on our television and my family was watching with intent, teary eyes. The numbers had increased since I last heard. From 10 children to 20 children. And from one teacher to six. Innocent lives had been taken in a blink of an eye: children who had their whole lives ahead of them, and adults who had families to come home to.

One word I can use to describe December 14 of 2012 was anxiousness. The feeling of not knowing was unbearable: not knowing who the shooter was or what his motives were, not knowing the amount of students and faculty who had their lives taken, and not knowing if any of those students or staff were someone I knew. My anxiety was at great heights but I cannot imagine the pain that the parents were feeling while awaiting reunions with their children. And I cannot imagine the pain felt by those who never received that last hug.

Needless to say, I didn’t know anyone who was killed that day. I had no personal connections in any way. But I would like to let the town of Sandy Hook know that I felt your pain…and I still do to this day. This world has become a place where lives of the innocent are taken daily. It’s hard to understand and I will never come to comprehend the reasoning behind some human being’s actions. But on December 14th, 2012, the world felt your pain. Losing a child in such a way is something no parent should ever have to go through. Heaven received the bravest angels that day…angels that became a symbol of hope for this world.

Ever since that day, the term community took on a new meaning in my eyes. The most unlikely people came together that day. Communities all over the world mourned the loss of 26 beautiful souls. A beautiful tribute was painted onto a bridge in my town, one that lasted until this past year. My family made it a tradition to place 26 ribbons with the names of the victims on our tree each Christmas season. My school made cards for the families in Sandy Hook for Valentine’s Day. And 26 Days of Kindness has become an annual tradition in honor of the children and staff.

Life has changed since that day. For me, it has become more of a mission to give to others. A simple act of kindness, they say, can go a long way. For many, that has now become a motto to live by.

Each day is a blessing. We must remember to cherish them. We never know when they will be gone. Not only should we cherish each day, but also every loved one in our lives. There may be a day where you won’t get that last hug, or kiss on the cheek. There may be a day that you won’t see that beautiful smile, or hear that beloved voice, again. Treat each moment like it’s the last. Because one day it will be.

Three years later, our hearts still reach out to you. There is no way we can feel the pain that you feel but we can continue to stand with you. Each child’s face plays in my mind this day, so innocent, so pure, yet so brave. The lasting twinkle in their eyes and the crooked smiles displayed across their faces are what they will be remembered by. The beauty of their simple lives are infinite. Sandy Hook, you are strong - stronger than you know. I pray for you this day that you have peace in your hearts and you’re striving to have the memory of your beautiful sons and daughters live on in your lives forever.

Love,

Amber

Cover Image Credit: Amber McCarty

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I'd Rather Be Single Than Settle – Here Is Why Being Picky Is Okay

They're on their best behavior when you're dating.
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Dating nowadays described in one word: annoying.

What's even more annoying? when people tell you that you're being too "picky" when it comes to dating. Yes, from an outside perspective sometimes that's exactly what it looks like; however, when looking at it from my perspective it all makes sense.

I've heard it all:

"He was cute, why didn't you like him?"

"You didn't even give him a chance!"

"You pay too much attention to the little things!"

What people don't understand is that it's OKAY to be picky when it comes to guys. For some reason, girls in college freak out and think they're supposed to have a boyfriend by now, be engaged by the time they graduate, etc. It's all a little ridiculous.

However, I refuse to put myself on a time table such as this due to the fact that these girls who feel this way are left with no choice but to overlook the things in guys that they shouldn't be overlooking, they're settling and this is something that I refuse to do.

So this leaves the big question: What am I waiting for?

Well, I'm waiting for a guy who...

1. Wants to know my friends.

Blessed doesn't even begin to describe how lucky I am to have the friends that I do.

I want a guy who can hang out with my friends. If a guy makes an effort to impress your friends then that says a lot about him and how he feels about you. This not only shows that he cares about you but he cares about the people in your life as well.

Someone should be happy to see you happy and your friends contribute to that happiness, therefore, they should be nothing more than supportive and caring towards you and your friendships.

2. Actually, cares to get to know me.

Although this is a very broad statement, this is the most important one. A guy should want to know all about you. He should want to know your favorite movie, favorite ice cream flavor, favorite Netflix series, etc. Often, (the guys I get stuck on dates with) love to talk about themselves: they would rather tell you about what workout they did yesterday, what their job is, and what they like to do rather than get to know you.

This is something easy to spot on the first date, so although they may be "cute," you should probably drop them if you leave your date and can recite everything about their life since the day they were born, yet they didn't catch what your last name was.

3. How they talk about other women.

It does not matter who they're talking about, if they call their ex-girlfriend crazy we all know she probably isn't and if she is it's probably their fault.

If they talk bad about their mom, let's be honest, if they're disrespecting their mother they're not going to respect you either. If they mention a girl's physical appearances when describing them. For example, "yeah, I think our waitress is that blonde chick with the big boobs"

Well if that doesn't hint they're a complete f* boy then I don't know what else to tell you. And most importantly calling other women "bitches" that's just disrespectful.

Needless to say, if his conversations are similar to ones you'd hear in a frat house, ditch him.

4. Phone etiquette.

If he can't put his phone down long enough to take you to dinner then he doesn't deserve for you to be sitting across from him.

If a guy is serious about you he's going to give you his undivided attention and he's going to do whatever it takes to impress you and checking Snapchat on a date is not impressive. Also, notice if his phone is facedown, then there's most likely a reason for it.

He doesn't trust who or what could pop up on there and he clearly doesn't want you seeing. Although I'm not particularly interested in what's popping up on their phones, putting them face down says more about the guy than you think it does.

To reiterate, it's okay to be picky ladies, you're young, there's no rush.

Remember these tips next time you're on a date or seeing someone, and keep in mind: they're on their best behavior when you're dating. Then ask yourself, what will they be like when they're comfortable? Years down the road? Is this what I really want? If you ask yourself these questions you might be down the same road I have stumbled upon, being too picky.. and that's better than settling.

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Pride? Pride.

Who are we? Why are we proud?

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This past week, I was called a faggot by someone close to me and by note, of all ways. The shock rolled through my body like thunder across barren plains and I was stuck paralyzed in place, frozen, unlike the melting ice caps. My chest suddenly felt tight, my hearing became dim, and my mind went blank except for one all-encompassing and constant word. Finally, after having thawed, my rage bubbled forward like divine retribution and I stood poised and ready to curse the name of the offending person. My tongue lashed the air into a frenzy, and I was angry until I let myself break and weep twice. Later, I began to question not sexualities or words used to express (or disparage) them, but my own embodiment of them.

For members of the queer community, there are several unspoken and vital rules that come into play in many situations, mainly for you to not be assaulted or worse (and it's all too often worse). Make sure your movements are measured and fit within the realm of possible heterosexuality. Keep your music low and let no one hear who you listen to. Avoid every shred of anything stereotypically gay or feminine like the plague. Tell the truth without details when you can and tell half-truths with real details if you must. And above all, learn how to clear your search history. At twenty, I remember my days of teaching my puberty-stricken body the lessons I thought no one else was learning. Over time I learned the more subtle and more important lessons of what exactly gay culture is. Now a man with a head and social media accounts full of gay indicators, I find myself wondering both what it all means and more importantly, does it even matter?

To the question of whether it matters, the answer is naturally yes and no (and no, that's not my answer because I'm a Gemini). The month of June has the pleasure of being the time of year when the LGBT+ community embraces the hateful rhetoric and indulges in one of the deadly sins. Pride. Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, the figures at the head of the gay liberation movement, fought for something larger than themselves and as with the rest of the LGBT+ community, Pride is more than a parade of muscular white men dancing in their underwear. It's a time of reflection, of mourning, of celebration, of course, and most importantly, of hope. Pride is a time to look back at how far we've come and realize that there is still a far way to go.

This year marks fifty years since the Stonewall Riots and the gay liberation movement launched onto the world stage, thus making the learning and embracing of gay culture that much more important. The waves of queer people that come after the AIDS crisis has been given the task of rebuilding and redefining. The AIDS crisis was more than just that. It was Death itself stalking through the community with the help of Regan doing nothing. It was going out with friends and your circle shrinking faster than you can try or even care to replenish. Where do you go after the apocalypse? The LGBT+ community was a world shut off from access by a touch of death and now on the other side, we must weave in as much life as we can.

But we can't freeze and dwell of this forever. It matters because that's where we came from, but it doesn't matter because that's not where we are anymore. We're in a time of rebirth and spring. The LGBT+ community can forge a new identity where the AIDS crisis is not the defining feature, rather a defining feature to be immortalized, mourned, and moved on from.

And to the question of what does it all mean? Well, it means that I'm gay and that I've learned the central lesson that all queer people should learn in middle school. It's called Pride for a reason. We have to shoulder the weight of it all and still hold our head high and we should. Pride is the LGBT+ community turning lemons into lemon squares and limoncello. The lemon squares are funeral cakes meant to mourn and be a familiar reminder of what passed, but the limoncello is the extravagant and intoxicating celebration of what is to come. This year I choose to combine the two and get drunk off funeral cakes. Something tells me that those who came before would've wanted me to celebrate.

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