Reading the names at Sandy Hook

Sunday morning. Reading the names of the children and their caretakers killed — such lovely, traditional names, which somehow makes it worse: Charlotte, Olivia, Josephine, Madeleine, Benjamin, Noah and, of course, Grace — reminds me of the days and weeks after 9/11, when I made a pledge to read each and every one of the Portraits of Grief published by the New York Times. I could never know those people, or the pain their families were feeling, but I felt I could somehow help to bear witness by really concentrating, for just a few moments, on the details of their lives.

I wish someone could do the same for these first graders — because while the list of what they’ve “done” would be short, by six their  personalities are fully, even fiercely, formed. How much could you tell, and in such detail, about your first grader  — her love of that one particular fleece hoodie, her insistence on the right markers in the right order, his unyielding opinion on this PBS show versus that one, his multi-step, multi-hour bedtime routine. The kernels of the people they would have become would be right there in plain sight.

Instead, all we have are their names. Instead of reading and remembering their lives, all we can do is read and imagine their futures.


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