One Month Later, a Sandy Hook Mom Looks Back: "This Must Be the Start of Something Better"

As my family dug into barbecue meatballs and salad last night, I asked my 7-year-old son about his day. It's the same question I have asked hundreds of times since he entered preschool four years ago. 

"We went upstairs to see the room above us. We finally got to see what's been making all those noises," he said. 

Will is a Sandy Hook survivor. On December 14, 2012, he and his classmates huddled in their classroom while horrific violence claimed the lives of 26 in their school -- many just across the hall. They heard the gunshots draw closer and closer before they finally stopped. 

Last week, as students settled into the new Sandy Hook School at Chalk Hill in Monroe, Connecticut, noises above their classroom startled them day after day. Yesterday helped. Seeing that the noises are normal school noises -- and not horror entering their lives again -- is another small step toward finding peace and security again. 

But I can't help but miss the days when his answer would be about some make-believe game he and the boys in his class had played on the playground at recess. I miss the days when I had to prod to learn more about what they'd learned in math or read in English. 

In our small school community, we are still finding our way. The evil that entered our lives on December 14 left lasting reminders that things can never go back to the way they were. But if that day is to mean anything, it must mean the start of something better.

It's time to start talking and start doing. 

Now is the time to propel Sandy Hook forward -- no longer the devastated victims of this crime, but the catalysts for important and lasting change. It's time to move ahead as a stronger, safer, better community and nation.

Though conversations about mental illness, gun rights and violence prevention sprung up almost immediately after December 14, only now is my community ready to participate -- as is evident from the Sandy Hook Promise press conference yesterday.

We have to set aside stigmas and politics so that we can make changes that will leave the world a better place for our kids. We need to make shifts in policy and society that protect a child's right to a future and an education free from violence. 

I don't care whether you're a gun owner or not. I don't dispute that people have the right to own guns as long as they are responsible gun owners. But it's time to step away from the knee-jerk reaction that any gun control is bad and recognize that some weapons and accessories have no place in American homes. 

But this must be done smartly -- not with broad blanket bans, but well-thought out ones that take weapons like the AR-15 rifle and high capacity magazines out of private ownership. Will it solve everything? Absolutely not. But it's a start and a part of a much bigger cultural shift we need to make that will focus on better mental health care, more prudent gun ownership laws and restrictions and a safer society.

We need this. And we need to do it together because this is much bigger than any one person's individual rights -- it's about the kind of society we want to be. And we are much better than this.

Sarah W. Caron is a writer and mom of two.

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