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Remembering Newtown This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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Gun control. It's a hot topic.
In view of recent events, few media-consuming Americans lack an opinion on our right to bear arms. The briskly shifting attitudes regarding gun control in Washington are heating up headlines across the nation. For the first time in the long history of second amendment support, strictly pro-firearms politicians are suddenly and temporarily malleable. The horrors of Newtown have forced politicians to step back, reevaluate their opinions, and look a bit more realistically at the impact of their decisions. The reality is raw. Many hope with great fervor that Washington will be so moved out of their cold, stony chairs that they can stop bickering long enough to take ­action.

Something about this particular tragedy has affected our nation in ways never seen before – yet this type of violence is far too common. If I never heard a word about it again, it would be too soon. One simple word chills our core.

Newtown.

One word, simply ink on a page, and the following is evoked: 20 little ones, six adults, December 14, 2012. It was a Friday. By Sunday, everyone had seen photographs – single file, eyes closed, open-mouthed sobs; a mother cloaked in a long wool coat, lifting her child into her arms; a sister lost in a jaw-slacked cry, a hand over a breaking heart, her strained face responding to a phone call so sudden a passenger door had been left ajar; candlelight vigils conducted by schoolchildren as far away as Pakistan. These images flooded Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr newsfeeds. Even months later, the story is still a fresh, sore wound. For a time afterwards, Congressional mouths stopped politicking about fiscal cliffs and raised the cry of “gun control.”

In the midst of our national bewilderment and grief, many of us are incessantly frustrated. Interviews, injustice, and lawsuits are running rampant. Band-Aids have been prematurely torn from raw wounds, again and again, forcing the victims and families to relive what must be the most horrific moments of their lives. Who can even say that we will ever uncover the longed-for answers?

In the wake of the tragedy, speculation was so rampant that the country's most trusted news providers were forced to swallow their pride and admit to inaccuracies in every other headline. I couldn't tell you if Adam Lanza's mother was in her home or at the school, if his father was in New Jersey or claimed the body, how the shooter got the vehicle, the weapons, the idea, whether a mental disorder or demonic possession is to blame. We do care; we don't care. We care so much we're left in a whirlwind of vertigo.

The emotions are so unbearable; the confusion is so overwhelmingly massive. Every dam has broken. Every sliver of dry land is flooded over our heads and America is left to crowd the three arks: rampant, erroneous speculation; political controversy; or complete avoidance of the media entirely. In the middle boat, the blow to our nation has grotesquely dragged the skeletons out of our closet. It is the ever-sensitive trigger: “gun control.” Statistics revolve around the uncomfortable topics of homicide, suicide, and massacre, each shining a crimson strobe light on the secret shadows where our beloved country fails to shine. America's monster-under-the-bed is more terrifying than anything out of a Stephen King novel. It is more black and piercing than any form taken by a boggart – it is in our backyard, sprawled across the red-and-white stripes, gnashing teeth fiercer than our famous fifty stars.

And I will frankly confess, it haunts me.

I'm grieved when I feel the most adult and the most a child. When I walk home alone, sneakers sliding over the ice, I wonder just how much colder those families felt that Connecticut December. When I find myself awake too early in the morning, I revisit the flashing red screens while I wait for brewing coffee. When I lie on my side at night, floral comforters pulled tight up to my chin, staring through the space exposed by parted pink curtains, out at the rain-hardened snowfall, at the river just beyond my backyard, at the parking lot of a rundown plaza, at the ever-changing, off-white rock in the distant sky, so briefly full and whole, that Friday lingers.

If I'm so sorry and exhausted and burnt out at 16, how do those suddenly childless parents bear to survive another breath? If I'm so young and vulnerable and dependent at 16, how much more innocence was shattered in the six- and seven- and eight-year-old surviving witnesses? If I have so much future, so much potential, so many summers and tomorrows and Christmases and birthdays lying ahead at 16, how much of life was robbed from those first-graders, those defenseless children, barely more than babies?

In my insomnia, those questions hold on until I'm shaken. I grew up in Connecticut, the Nutmeg State, where ­national-scale bad news rarely happens. On that day, on that unspeakably mutilated Friday, December 14, all we could do was cry. All we could say was, “Nothing like this ever happens here. Nothing.”

That first-grade classroom was a stone's throw from the elementary school my family sends my seven-year-old brother to every weekday. I love him like only a little one can be loved. I love him because he's silly and gently naive, because his faultless heart is full and strong and so very defenseless, because his peppered freckles, his wide hazel eyes, and big, perfect, clumsy smile can thaw any frozen heart.

Children are filled to the brim with untainted innocence and simplicity, harboring so much faith and blissful obliviousness. It's beautiful and terrible and wonderful. That day, something cold and detached came like a thief in the night. Unfathomable hate shattered those shining walls of magical incorruptibility. Senseless chaos and pain obliterated a community.

And we cried. We wept and swore and screamed and mourned with Newtown, so devastated and unsuspecting. The aftershocks still tremble, a blackness in our peripheral, the heaviness in our hearts, the fear that sinks deep when big brothers and big sisters and mommies and ­daddies let go of cold little hands in this bloody Connecticut winter.

I couldn't sit through the vigil, but you can bet I prayed for Charlotte, Daniel, Rachel, Olivia, Josephine, Ana, Dylan, Madeleine, Catherine, Chase, Jesse, James, Grace, Emilie, Jack, Noah, Caroline, Jessica, Avielle, Benjamin, and Allison. And Dawn, Anne Marie, Lauren, Victoria, and Mary, too, because, honestly, “grownups” aren't any bigger than ­little children when the clockwork falls short.

There's not a doubt in my mind that residents of Colorado will never forget the tragedy in Aurora, or not feel a clench in their gut when someone whispers “Columbine.” Virginia knows exactly why I couldn't bring myself to consider Virginia Tech for college. Utah is forever aware of what transpired in Salt Lake City. Minnesota suffered Red Lake. And the massacres continue. Innumerable ghosts of tragedy haunt this country. Darkness will forever shroud December 14, 2012. Connecticut remembers, every day.

The only words of any justice recognize that there can be no justice. Who can deny that this is just too much? It has happened, again and again, a fact more shameful than our infamously pathetic standardized math scores. A heinous tragedy has dared to attack and take away our children, the most universally loved and defended Americans. In this ­moment of bright light and white noise, we're helplessly overwhelmed, blinded, deaf, and unable to make sense of the senseless. If this tragedy cannot move our nation to change, then we must admit there is no hope at all.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.





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This article has 9 comments. Post your own!

Sherrill said...
yesterday at 3:52 pm:
This is so well written and moving. But sadly the article never addressed the center issue, the "elephant in the room" if you will. And that is the fact that Sandy Hook, Red Lake High School, Columbine, University of Alabama Huntsville, Luby's, Century movie theater Aurora, Colorado and the Fort Hood massacre were all "Gun Free Zones", places where the law-abiding intended victims were rendered defenseless by the misguided ideology that insists: The more helpless you ... (more »)
 
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Sean said...
Jan. 27 at 3:19 pm:
At 16, one tends to let fly with ones emotions, and in this case, little else. Yes, a tragedy. Yes, horrible. Yes, pointless. But if you drench yourself in your emotions, you're never going to find a solution, let alone think of one. I've got an idea! We leave our kids with virtual strangers, eight hours a day, for most of the year. To be taught. Very well. If a teacher is trusted with a childs mind that long, and is back ground checked by the school, and the parents, have them obtain a ... (more »)
 
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Rlemerysgt said...
Jan. 27 at 2:42 pm:
Change, yes change is needed. We need to force the BATF to enforce the current laws more than 1% of the time. We need to force the BATF to do something about the 95.52% of bad guys (21 mil plus since 1997) who don't even attempt to buy from a licensed source to begin with. We need to force the BATF to allow civilian access to the NICS for private sales. We need to force the BATF to stop allowing the 2.23 mil straw buyers since 1997 to pass the background check since 1997 to buy over 6.5 mil g... (more »)
 
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LarryArnold said...
Jan. 27 at 1:57 pm:
[our children, the most universally loved and defended Americans.] Unfortunately, that morning the children weren't defended. Oh, Sandy Hook Elementary was a textbook "gun-free" zone. Everything was in place. Connecticut had the fifth toughest gun control in the U.S. The school had just updated security, with locks, cameras, policies, training, and so forth. The Newtown police were trained, motivated, and equipped. Everything worked just as designed. And 26 innocent people died. ... (more »)
 
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High Country Hunter said...
Jan. 27 at 11:12 am:
All these tragedies occured in "gun free" zones where the suspects committed their carnage unhamperd.  Even on an international level the terrorists strike in "gun free" zones.  The truth of the matter is you cannot depend on law enforcement as the poilice have no responsibility to respond to your calls for help, so stated the US Supreme Court. You are your own first responders. Stop and think, when was the last time you read about a mass shooting at a gun show, fir... (more »)
 
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FrankInFL said...
Jan. 27 at 10:34 am:
Beautifully written, indeed, and emotion-laden as might be expected fpr such an unspeakable tragedy, but the solution, if such there be, is more difficult.   Gun-free zones are really just criminal-enablement zones,  They're places where evil people know the chances of someone actually preventing their evil is artificially low.  Enabling evil is itself EVIL.   You wouldn't suggest children be left unprotected against diseases like polio or chicken pox, would y... (more »)
 
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ConstanceContraireThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. said...
Dec. 28, 2013 at 10:13 pm:
Wonderful article   
 
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Annaxgr said...
Jan. 16, 2013 at 5:24 pm:
This piece was amazing. I almost cried while I was reading it. It was very well-written and I like the approach you took on this topic. Most people only talk about how America should have better gun control, and if they talk about families, they only say that they were 'devastated'. Your approach was awesome!
 
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LakeSilencio said...
Jan. 16, 2013 at 5:19 pm:
This piece was so well-written, and I totally agree with what you're saying. If such a life-shattering event will still be drowned in petty politics, what is the world coming to?
 
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