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As a 26-second moment of silence was observed today for the 26 members of our school community lost on December 14, 2012, my son walked along a sandy shoreline with his cousins. It was chilly, but I wanted to begin the next six months of our lives in a place we love, surrounded by people we love.
My daughter sat on my lap on a beach chair. It wasn't that unlike that morning six months ago, when she sat beside me on the couch. I was working on a magazine article that was due that day. She was watching a morning cartoon while eating her breakfast.
It was just so normal. Until it wasn't.
The minutes this morning ticked by and I was struck by how long those moments can feel as I waited for 9:38 to come -- the time when the shooting stopped. By then, it was over. We'd lost 26 members of our school community, and help had arrived.
My son survived. In his classroom just across the hall -- steps from Victoria Soto's classroom -- he huddled with classmates and his teacher. And they survived. I thank God every day for that.
Six months later, we've found a new normal here in Sandy Hook. Our locked down campus is a source of comfort. The presence of police officers who guard the drive into the campus, checking passes and IDs, are a welcome site. Inside the school and on the playground, other officers are always there, always watching, always protecting. Mental health professionals are always on hand, helping kids work through the difficulties associated with the trauma they experienced.
Beyond the school yard, we've become a stronger, tighter-knit community. Sandy Hook and greater Newtown has always been a wonderful place to raise children. But over the last six months, it's been heartening to feel everyone come together for the good of the kids.
As my kids and our cousins roamed the beach this morning, I smiled. It's time to open a new chapter -- one that begins with love and joy, and honors the memories of those we lost.
But we must never forget those 26 beautiful souls lost that morning. We need to remember their names, and honor their memories. Charlotte Bacon. Daniel Barden. Rachel D’Avino. Olivia Engel. Josephine Gay. Ana M. Marquez-Greene. Dylan Hockley. Dawn Hochsprung. Madeleine Hsu. Catherine Hubbard. Chase Kowalski. Jessie Lewis. James Mattioli. Grace McDonnell. Anne Marie Murphy. Emilie Parker. Jack Pinto. Noah Pozner. Caroline Previdi. Jessica Rekos. Avielle Richman. Lauren Rousseau. Mary Sherlach. Victoria Soto. Benjamin Wheeler. Allison Wyatt.
The school year will come to a close next week -- a welcome ending to the hardest school year we've ever experienced. But the impact of December 14 won't disappear. It's something that will influence our lives forever.
Earlier this week, Newtown schools all had another lockdown. A threat had been made to another of our elementary schools, and officials worked swiftly to ensure that kids in all the schools in Newtown were protected. When the bulletin splashed onto my television screen at the same moment that an email from our superintendent came, it felt like I was back in December. My body shook with sobs, as it struck me deeply. Even though I knew everything was okay, it still took me right back.
Being Sandy Hook -- being Newtown -- has made our small, quaint town the recipient of so much love and kindness over the last six months. We were embraced by the nation, and I cannot begin to explain how heartwarming it is to truly feel the love in the hardest parts of our days. I can't begin to thank the nation and the world for the kindness we were showered with.
But that same designation has also made us a target for cruel people who try to add to our grief and trauma with threats, faulty hoax theories and unkind opinions about why this happened. Fortunately, love trumps all. In the end, the empty ugliness means nothing when we are surrounded by so much love.
Here in Sandy Hook, we've embraced the saying "We are Sandy Hook. We choose love," and my family tries to live it daily. It would have been so easy to fall into anger and hate, but what we really needed was healing -- and love helps us find it.
Today, take a minute to hug someone you love. Do a random act of kindness. Act in love to honor those 26 beautiful souls we lost. As our Principal Dawn Hochsprung said, "Be nice to each other. It's really all that matters."
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