This coming January I'll turn 50. The first memory I have of tragedy in America was the shooting of Martin Luther King in April of 1968. At age 5 you only remember that something really bad happened. Only a few months later Robert Kennedy also was assassinated. The only reason this moment stuck with me a little more vividly was the train which carried the body of the New York Senator. For some reason, the Battle Hymn of the Republic still plays in my head as I think of Senator Kennedy and St. Patrick's Cathedral.
Years would go by before the shuttle Challenger disaster in 1986. I remember President Reagan, whom I would meet 6 months later, telling the nation that these astronauts had "slipped the surly bonds of earth" to "touch the face of God". Less than a decade later, we were rattled by a bomb blast in Oklahoma City. Maybe our core was shaken a bit more to learn that fellow citizens had committed domestic terror. September 11, 2001 is etched in the soul of every American young and old that watched events unfold that day. It was this generations Pearl Harbor.
Throughout my life I have witnessed Hurricanes like Andrew, Katrina and now Sandy. Typhoons and earthquakes have caused incredible human suffering. Evil and Mother Nature are always lurking around the corner. Throughout it all, I've always been proud of the way Americans chipped in to lend a hand. Whether it was rushing to help the victims in Haiti, pulling co-workers from the rubble at the Pentagon on 9/11 or two former Presidential opponents joining together to help people a world away.
Last Friday, December 14, was different. It was as if our own home had been invaded and our children taken right in front of us. After almost 50 years, I thought I had seen it all. Unfortunately I still can't fathom how anyone could harm a child. But another fellow American somehow managed to shoot twenty 6 and 7 year old angels.
The questions came almost immediately. How could this happen? More shouting about guns. More finger pointing. More of the same old. You know the ending. For a very brief moment Americans will pray for these families, the heroic teachers who gave their lives, the 1st responders who certainly will be scarred by an unimaginable scene. For a brief moment, as in the past, we will be United.
As our elected officials rush to get us off the fiscal cliff, something they quite honestly could have both down 18 months ago, as the talking heads scream louder and louder pounding their chests, I'm going to lay down my own plan.
Friday morning changed me. I hope the horrible events of that morning change a lot of us. I certainly think the 26 brave souls who died in Newtown school deserve more than us taking to twitter and berating our neighbor simply because we disagree. We have a lot of problems in this Country. But while I can't solve them myself, I'm moving forward with a new commitment to reach across the aisle, walk across the street and treat my fellow neighbors with the love and respect that 26 Americans weren't afforded last Friday morning.
The animosity and name-calling must stop. We need to take a moment to get to know the people we seem to hate for no reason. I can be stubborn and very opinionated. I’ll continue to have a very strong opinion. But I'm going to honor the entire Newtown community by doing my best to bring the people I come across each day, just a little closer.