The world learned the name of my hometown last year. Before one year ago today, when people asked me where I was from I could say “a small town in Connecticut, you’ve almost definitely never heard of it.” Now we are another point on the map of mass shootings in America.
Today I want to honour those who were killed in this tragedy and others. Sympathy for surviving loved ones is not enough. They need more than kind words and sappy greeting cards (in fact, they could probably use a whole lot less of the latter). What all of us who have had someone ripped away from us due to a murderous rampage, or a civil war, or an act of terror, or an oppressive government need is not more tears, but a commitment to change.
Change doesn’t have to be difficult, and it doesn’t have to be painful. It can be, but what we need in our country more than a few high-powered activists are large numbers of people willing to take a few minutes of their days to sign a petition, or call a local congressperson, or listen to one of those activists speak. If you have two minutes right now, please listen to my friend Nicole Hockley speak to the BBC about how we have progressed over the last year, and how far we have to go in honour of her son and his comrades and teachers. More information on the Sandy Hook Promise, an organization founded by Nicole and several others affected by the tragedy to reduce the causes of gun violence, is available here.
On a broader note, I thought today of what could happen if every party in an armed conflict put down arms to honour every tragedy like this one. I know cease-fires are occasionally arranged for holidays (though as we saw last year in Syria they are not guaranteed to be honoured). Just imagine a) how little fighting there could be because the sheer number of fatal battles and other tragedies would span the calendar year, and b) how stopping in remembrance of loss might affect those engaged in death and destruction. I don’t foresee a day when this will be reality, but what I am thinking about is how we can incorporate lessons of loss into our teachings of history and policymaking.