16 December 2012


When I was in seventh grade, I used to ride to and from school with my Mom. The hospital where she was working was only a couple of blocks from school and I could avoid the overcrowded bus. She had a Desoto sedan and we would listen to the radio and talk.

On Monday, 1 December 1958, as we pulled into our driveway, we heard the dreaded words, “We interrupt this program for a special news bulletin.” There followed the announcement of the Our Lady of the Angels fire in Chicago. Three nuns and 92 children died in the fire, most from smoke inhalation.

 Mom put her head on the steering wheel and sobbed. “Oh, their poor Mothers. And just before Christmas.”

I’ve been back in that old Desoto all weekend. The tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School would have been no less tragic in any other season, but Christmas is a season of birth, and joy, and expectation. It hit all the harder because the expectation those sweet little children had as they entered school that morning was stolen. And for the survivors, Christmas will never be the same.

It appears that a very troubled young man stole some guns from his mother, killed her, and then began his own particular excursion into hell. Why he did it, we will never know, nor does it matter.

What does matter is keeping the children and their teachers in the spotlight, not the shooter. The teachers, particularly, deserve our thanks and respect. To paraphrase the final sentence of a posthumous medal citation, “Their conduct was in keeping with the highest traditions of the teaching profession and reflected great credit upon themselves, their school, and the entire school district. They gallantly gave their lives for the children entrusted to them.”