By Sara Splansky, NFTY-CAR
Why children? Why a school? Why 26? Why first graders? Why don’t people pay more attention to mental health? What about the families? Why do I know the shooter’s name and not a single victim’s name? How could his past be so damaged that he feels the only way he can recover is to take away the innocent’s future? Could I have done something? Could anyone have done anything? Am I truly safe at school? Why do mass murders keep happening? How are the survivors and their families as well as the community ever going to recover from this tragedy? Why during the most joyful season of the year? How can anyone comprehend burying 20 children and 7 adults in one week? Why?
At 9:30am on Friday, December 14, 20 children and 7 adults had their innocent lives tragically taken from them at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. Tonight, we gather together as Jews to offer prayers of healing, comfort, love, and peace for every single being affected by this heinous massacre. Even in the darkest of times when we cannot imagine having enough to go on, our tradition offers us reason to trust that there will be light and joy again in our lives. Rather than centralizing on the darkness of this massacre, we focus our attention on the light that beamed in each of the 27 innocent victims.
Charlotte Bacon – 6 years old – She loved dresses and school and her beautiful curly red hair.
Daniel Barden – 7 years old – A soccer player and swimmer who embodied everything that is wholesome and innocent in the world.
Olivia Engel – 6 years old – An amazing big sister who was always active and appreciative.
Josephine Gay – 7 years old – She loved riding her bike and having lemonade stands, her seventh birthday was just last Tuesday.
Catherine Hubbard – 6 years old
Madeleine Hsu – 6 years old – She was a sweet girl who always wore bright flowery dresses.
Chase Kowalski – 7 years old – The perfect little brother of two sisters and the apple of his parents’ eye, he never failed to say hello to the neighbors while playing baseball outside with his dad, all he wanted for Christmas this year was his two front teeth back.
Jesse Lewis – 6 years old – Brave and curious he was killed running into the hall to help, he loved to play with the animals and think of far-fetched “what if’s….”, he was learning to horseback ride before his passing.
Ana Marquez-Greene – 6 years old – New to the neighborhood she was the most vivacious and spunky girl in the first grade.
James Mattioli – 6 years old – The swimmer with the 1,000 watt smile.
Grace Audrey McDonnell – 6 years old – Looking like the most beautiful barbie she would wait at the end of the street everyday for the school bus.
Emilie Parker – 6 years old – A sunny-natured gorgeous girl who was a best friend to her two younger sisters.
Noah Pozner – 6 years old – The youngest and only Jewish victim he loved his family and his twin sister who survived the shooting.
Caroline Previdi – 6 years old – She earned the nickname “silly caroline” for her caring smile, everyday on the bus she sat with a kindergartener so he wouldn’t be scared.
Jessica Rekos – 6 years old – The first born who was called the “CEO” of the family for her want to plan every detail, she was a cowgirl at heart.
Allison N. Wyatt – 6 years old – Quiet and shy yet so extremely loving, she enjoyed gardening with her mom.
Benjamin Wheeler – 6 years old – Loving older brother, son of two musicians, his nickname was “crash” for his clumsiness.
Avielle Richman – 6 years old – She would wear her pink cowboy boots while riding her horse, she asked for an easy bake oven for Christmas so she would be able to bake her mom cookies.
Jack Pinto – 6 years old – He idolized Victor Cruz (NY Giants wide receiver) who honored him after word of the news, he was in the wrestling organization in Newtown.
Dylan Hockley – 6 years old – his family made the move from the UK to Newtown just two years ago and he was loving school, to know him was to love him.
Rachel Marie D’Avino – 29 years old – Her true passion was her occupation, as a behavioral therapist, she died a hero protecting the children she loved, her boyfriend was going to propose to her this upcoming Christmas eve.
Dawn Hochsprung – 47 years old – As the principal as the school she gave everything she had to the families of Sandy Hook including at the end her life, she was a wife mother and grandmother, she cared very much about her students so much that she immediately lunged at the shooter when he entered the school.
Anne Marie Murphy – 52 years old – She was an aide at the elementary school who did everything she could to protect her students, she was a mother of four and a loving wife.
Lauren Rousseau – 30 years old – She was on cloud nine when Sandy Hook offered her a full time substitute-teaching job, she passed doing what she truly loved, teaching was her passion.
Mary Sherlach – 56 years old – She was the school psychologist, she was a mother of two great girls who she loved dearly, she didn’t think twice when danger entered the school and lost her life protecting the students of Sandy Hook.
Nancy Lanza – 52 years old – Along with 26 other innocent victims, the shooter may have been her son, but she should be remembered for her love of jazz music and outgoing personality.
Vicki Leigh Soto – 27 years old – When she heard gunshots in the school she hid her students in the closet and told the gunman they were in gym before he took her life, she was the oldest of four children, family and friends filled her life along with her passion for teaching, she died a true hero.
As we watch each victim’s light shine, we pause for a moment of silence
May the survivors of the Sandy Hook school be blessed with the knowledge that God watched over them and may they dedicate their lives to living and being happy. May the wounded, of body and soul, be granted a full and speedy recovery. May the families of those who died find comfort somehow in the knowledge that God will care for their loved ones in a better place than this world could ever be, that many are grateful to the teachers and principal who tried to protect the children.
May their memories be for a blessing.