I just couldn't bear to watch any part of the memorial service -- I know when I am overwhelmed, and it's more than I can handle. My past life teaching young children has seemed very present, and I think I was dreaming about those long-ago classrooms these last nights.
You know, everyone says how incredible it is that it happened in Fairfield County, a beautiful part of the state and very much our idea of traditional New England. For years I've been teaching about the legacy of the Colt Works, whose beautiful blue dome is a daily reminder to Hartford commuters that this is the place where the repeating rifle, "the gun that won the West," was created, a source of much of the state's prosperity. They had the audacity to call it "The Peacemaker."
I have never liked guns. At times I've been urged to learn to shoot by well-meaning people, and I never wanted to. My grandfather gave up hunting and guns for good when my grandmother insisted it was incompatible with grandchildren in the house. When my friend Esther, a young wife and new mother, was shot and killed during a robbery at a neighborhood supermarket, I recoiled from the advice a favorite philosophy professor gave me, himself a gun shop owner. He said, grimly, that Esther and I were born victims, and that I had to protect myself. I know he was upset -- she had been his student, too -- but I rejected that advice despite my respect for him. The reason for his concern for me was that there was a rapist stalking our old neighborhood -- I actually saw him once, staring in my back door window. I told my neighbor, then the head of the Buffalo Police, and I later found out that an officer had been assigned to our corner to watch and wait. He was caught; I was safe, but even that didn't make me want to arm myself. Nor did the time I was held up at gunpoint when I was a night manager at a restaurant back in the 70s. And here in my little rural community, the sound of gunfire punctuates the morning for a good part of the fall -- duck season, of course. I'm tired of it all. Yesterday I heard a local tell the cashier in the convenience store that the school shooting made him want to keep his guns. It was all I could do to keep quiet.
Grieve, reflect and show resolve. What else can we do? Not indulge in pointless revelry to distract ourselves, but instead, to be sensible and thoughtful. And to cherish those we care for, and insist on positive change. I think Obama can do it. When I think back on how often I feared for his life, and thought that his mere survival said that perhaps we were making progress...