Last year, not long after the birth of my first son, I decided to move my family to an ideal, safe American town — the Sandy Hooky section of Newtown.
Friday, I was in a doctor's office with my six-month-old baby when I heard about the shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School. I had told my wife just that morning that I would never complain about my long commute to New York City because life in Sandy Hook has been so nice.
Everybody in that office sensed something was very wrong when a mother received an emergency call and was told her daughter was in the school. She immediately broke down in uncontrollable hysteria, as doctors rushed to console and comfort her.
My kids are still too young to attend the very elementary school that will now forever be etched into our nation's conscience. But every parent and every resident of this area knows the palpable pain that, although surely nothing compared to the victims' families, brings a sense of deep loss.
Sandy Hook is just over 60 miles from Manhattan. Many people in this community probably moved here for reasons similar to mine. We wanted to give our children a good life, a safe life where they could play outside, run around with their friends, go to good schools with caring teachers and learn in a nurturing environment. We moved here because, like so many Americans, we want simple things in life: peace, security, happiness, love and a better life for our kids.
Last month, I brought my 2-year-old son for his first haircut in the middle of town. As I think about him sitting in a chair in the shape of a truck, playing with toys — his only fear the locks of blond hair falling past his eyes — I cringe to think of how many sat in that same chair who are now gone and of the parents who had life's greatest gift inexplicably taken from them.
In times of unthinkable tragedy, we have a tendency to ask, "why?"
We know that there is no answer, no logic that can begin to make the order of the universe feel right at this moment. Perhaps we think that if we can find some explanation that makes a bit of sense, then maybe we can justify why we weren't the victims, why it didn't happen to us or why it won't happen again.
Sandy Hook, however, proves once again that tragedy can befall anyone, anywhere, from the most innocent among us to the biggest, strongest, smartest, richest or most famous. We are reminded that life is precious and fragile and it can be taken away in an instant.
Just as we cannot make sense of what happened, we cannot pretend that there are silver linings.
We can, however, come closer as a community, to do whatever we can to help our neighbors in need. Perhaps we can even be a model for a fractured nation and show that, just once, sensibility and empathy can trump politics and agendas. This need not devolve into a rancorous debate about whether gun control or gun rights should trump. Instead, we should be talking about why love should triumph over hate, gentleness over violence and hope over despair. For a tired nation that has been embroiled in bitter bickering and partisan politics for years, those are not political points, but human ones.
I will never forget what happened in this little bucolic town and the lives that were forever lost and altered. We will all be reminded of it in some way every time we engage in the most mundane of life's activities. We should strive to remember something else, however, as it difficult as it may be right now. There is a reason why many of us came to Sandy Hook in the first place. Let us fulfill our potential as a community and be worthy of their memory.
Chad Joshpe is a resident of the Sandy Hook section of Newtown.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun