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Commentary: Our collective hearts are broken

Last Friday morning, our nephew, Daniel Barden, awoke early enough to say good-bye to his mother, Jackie, as she made her way out the door to her job as an elementary school teacher in Pawling, N.Y.

He escorted his two older siblings, James and Natalie, to the bus stop up the street and returned home with Mark, his father.

The bus to Sandy Hook Elementary School came later in the morning so they often got to spend a little extra time together. They warmed up from their walk by cuddling on the couch, ate breakfast and played a quick game of foosball.

Mark took a few moments to sit at the piano with Daniel and teach him the notes to “Jingle Bells” before heading back up the street to that same bus stop.

At Daniel’s insistence, he and his dad played tag as they raced up the hill to meet Mr. Wheeler’s bus.

I imagine his thoughts during that ride were on the upcoming holidays and the birthday party he’d be attending later that night at his aunt and uncle’s home across town, to celebrate the first birthday of his cousin Jane and to play with his cousin Michael, “the fourth Barden.”

As Daniel and his classmates got off the bus in the chilly December sunshine they were thinking the thoughts of any seven-year-old, about the weekend and the weeks ahead.

You already know how the rest of that morning played out.

•••

The families who lost their precious children will never lose the horror of that day. The general public will also suffer increased anxiety since the media will need to up the ante on this story. Our culture cannot seem to satisfy itself with the gravity of an incomprehensible event anymore and so it must sell the story endlessly, breathlessly, until it moves on to the next narrative or natural disaster.

In the days to come, you will likely read accounts from people who knew the perpetrator in his previous life as a high school loner, each one hinting at possible motives for his act. It is also inevitable that evermore grisly forensic evidence will be made accessible to the public.

I urge you to ignore it as best you can. A much better use of your time is to focus on the people who really matter in this story — those children and the shattered families left in the wake of this event.

The paragraph above was meant to convey a sense of the life behind a photo you might see of one of those children. There are 19 other photos of children lost to us that day that come attached to equally touching and emotional stories.

Put your thoughts with those children and on the joy they brought to their families rather than on the despicable way they were wrenched apart from their loved ones.

Or, you might simply hug your own children as tightly as you can and tell them you love them because they’re here and you can.

Either way, don’t let the final crime of this abomination be the triumph of one sad, desperate person’s bid at notoriety.

To say that our collective hearts are broken would be a gross understatement. Finding the words to describe the sense of grief, horror and outrage at having such an innocent life snatched away is as futile as finding a meaning in the act itself.

My wife and I have spoken about how awkward it feels to be offered condolences when the Barden family is feeling this anguish more painfully and intimately than we are. That’s not to say we aren’t deeply appreciative of the love and support so many have expressed, both to us and to our loved ones. I am especially touched by the calls, texts, emails and visits by you, my friends and colleagues at Weston.

I suppose the only appropriate statement I can make is to simply say “thank you” from the bottom of my heart for all the care and concern so many of you have shown for our Daniel, our family and for me.

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