Since Friday, when news came to me of the soul-wrenching event at Sandy Hook Elementary School, I’ve wrestled with what to write in this space. It has been a trivial pursuit compared to what families, first responders, and the community of Newtown are dealing with. And yet, there is a need to respond, to put into words, however poor, whatever wisdom my profession might offer at a time like this.
Librarians are not first responders, but they may be in the next line of response. We need to remember our colleagues at Sandy Hook and think of creative ways to support them as they work through this tragedy. The Library Media Center at Sandy Hook is staffed by four individuals. I make bold to name them so that we might keep them in our thoughts and prayers: Yvonne Cech, Library Media Specialist; Nancy Duffy, Library Teacher; Mary Ann Jacob, Library Clerk; and Cindy Carlson, Library Educational Assistant. Beyond keeping their names before us perhaps some of my colleagues will send them a card or note of support; perhaps some already have.
Some of you might also have resources in mind that you can share with them. Librarians are excellent at finding material and connecting sources with those in need. Now may be the perfect time to offer up your expertise to these colleagues. Perhaps a book or article was particularly useful to you in a similar time. Or maybe you know the perfect book to suggest for those in their care—the students who will again come to them looking for answers. For myself, I’ll note a group that was made available to me in a time of need, following the death of my fifteen-year-old niece: GriefShare. Our parish nurse coordinated this program and I found it immensely helpful as I walked through my own grief. Other faith-based or community groups may offer similar programs. I encourage my colleagues at Sandy Hook to look for such opportunities. You are not alone. You need not walk this path alone.
Finally, I’ll end with a story I heard last Sunday. It is, perhaps, well known to you. For me it was a new story that carried with it a sense of hope. The gist of the story can be found in Wikipedia, from which I borrow here. During the American Civil War Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s oldest son joined the Union army, without his father’s blessing. His son was wounded in battle and this, together with the recent death of his wife, prompted Longfellow to write “Christmas Bells.” It was set to music in the 1870s, a carol familiar to many. A few of the verses, it seems to me, speak to those in Newtown and to us:
I heard the bells on Christmas Day | Their old, familiar carols play, | and wild and sweet | The words repeat | Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
It was as if an earthquake rent | The hearth-stones of a continent, | And made forlorn | The households born | Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
And in despair I bowed my head; | "There is no peace on earth," I said; | "For hate is strong, | And mocks the song | Of peace on earth, good-will to men!"
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep: | "God is not dead, nor doth He sleep; | The Wrong shall fail, | The Right prevail, | With peace on the earth, good-will to men."
Grace and peace to my colleagues at Sandy Hook.