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Courage beyond words
5 years ago

By DAVE HELLING, The Kansas City Star, Dec. 19, 2By DAVE HELLING 012


Millions of words have already been written about the Sandy Hook massacre, and millions more are coming. We’ll argue about gun control, violent video games, poor mental health services, inadequate school security.

Words are tools — tools that make us human. Like tools, words can build up or tear down. They can inspire, anger, move.

If misused, they can cause injury. Properly used, they can illuminate.

Sometimes words aren’t up to the job, like grinding a granite boulder with a toothbrush. The schoolhouse murders seem to fit that description: It’s difficult to talk or write about the shootings without slipping into banality, because we just don’t have words that fully encompass such horror. Swords, it turns out, are mightier than pens.

That’s OK. The shootings should stick in our memory like granite — rough, immovable, unchanged by time.

Still, the Sandy Hook tragedy can help us understand words that can mean different things in different contexts. Take the word “courage.”

Americans rightly honor the courage of soldiers, police, firefighters and other first responders. Yet theirs is clearly a front-end bravery — the people who run into buildings or look around dangerous corners sign up for those tasks, well aware that their safety could be at risk. They’re trained and equipped for the job.

Vicki Soto, 27, wanted a different path. She and her Sandy Hook colleagues wanted to teach their eager young pupils important skills such as spelling, counting and that life has room for drawing holiday turkeys by outlining your hand. It’s likely she never considered the chance that she would be asked to put her body between her first-graders and rounds from an assault rifle.

When the time came, though, she did just that.

“Courage” fails to fully describe her sacrifice. Maybe “love” is a better word.

If we look, we can find other examples of that kind of love. On Flight 93. In an Arizona parking lot. At a Colorado movie theater or high school. In every case, the best among us have always stepped — without hesitation — between killer and victim, terror and disaster, life and death.

Contrast that with our elected leaders who, confronted with our nation’s deepest problems, seem more afraid of losing their jobs than fixing their country. It is, literally, a shame.

In the coming weeks we’ll hear many words honoring the memories of the Sandy Hook victims. Taking needed steps to prevent another bloodbath — smarter gun rules, more mental health counseling, safer school buildings, all of it — might redeem some of those words, leaving the victims’ families, and all of us, with more than mere remembrance.

5 years ago

More lives might have been saved if these brave adults had had firearms or there was a police officer or armed security at the school.  Nothing is 100%, but steps need to be taken to decrease of the chances of this ever happening again.


My heart is broken watching the funerals of the children & adults and seeing the pain their loved ones are going through.  The more I hear about his mother the less sympathy I have for her.  Haven't heard much at all from his father & brother.


I posted this on C2NN:

5 years ago

Posted comment on C2NN Sandy.  Great article and I commented here, too.  Thank you so much.

5 years ago

Well, I don't go to C2NN to comment, so I will do so here.


My heart is also broken watching the funerals of the victims - I can never imagine the utter pain and grief that they are experiencing now and will experience for a very long time.  They will remember this Christmas for the rest of their lives.  The presents they had already bought, the Christmas plans.  All gone.  All for the rage and hate of a young man who was terribly unbalanced.  Gradually, if we let it, time heals all wounds.  Life does go on.  Maybe not the way we had planned, but time does go on.  Love and remberances will linger forever.  They will always remember but the pain will become, perhaps, a time when we can say, "In the time we had them they brought such joy, thank God we had them for that time."


And Sandy, I disaggree with you about Adam's mother.  She literally gave up her life long before her son took her life.  Did she make an error in judgement as far as having guns in the house - probably.  She did, however, stick with him until she knew she couldn't handle him any longer.  I always remember the depth of a mother's love.  She shouldn't be blamed when we don't know the circumstances regarding this whole story.   


I'll never judge anyone until I've had to live her life or walk in her shoes.

5 years ago

Maybe devoting herself to her son 24/7 to the point of despiration & dispair where she was going to have him committed was not admirable without her at least previously trying to get him professional help early on.   If what I've read is wrong, I will retract my comments.  I am not heartless, but in some cases a mother's love is not always enough.

5 years ago

Sandy, it is not that easy to get help, trust me.  My parents spent 3 years trying to get help for my brother, 3 long and painful years.  No, he was not violent, but he was doing things that hurt himself such as going running in single digit temperatures with nothing on but running shoes, running shorts, a thin t-shirt and that was it.  He was found one time 6 hours after he disappeared 50 miles from home; he had run 50 miles in 6 hours in the dead of winter.  Did they do all they could, you are darn right they were; the whole family of us were.  

Do we know that she was not getting help?  People in the community thought so, at least 2 different people I heard interviewed.  

Further, it sometimes takes a little time to determine that they need help; in my brother's case it was not noticeable for a few months and then it started to become evident.  

I just have to agree with you, Tara Jane, until you walk in another's shoes it is best not to judge and we never know when our lives could change and we would need and pray that people would offer us compassion rather than condemnation.  

I have dealt with this with my nephew and my brother; I know just how people can be.  I would also ask the community, did you reach out to offer help, love, etc.?  And where was the father; why did he decide it was too much and bail on the son and his wife?  Why is there not more talk about him and is absent presence in this matter.  Why did he not try to do something?  Why didn't he do something early on?  I would ask that question as well.  You know, it takes 2 to create a child, and it is expected and rightfully so that both take an active role in raising that child.  Where was he?

5 years ago

Linda -- I understand that investigators have been talking with the father.  And, they are not releasing, at this time, any information.


I read an article once - written by a psychologist, that when there is a troubled child in the household - there is a high percentage of divorces.  That makes a world of sense.  Just think, if couples get a divorce over money and other marital problems - think about the day to day living with a child- like monster living in your midst.  A strong marriage can possibly withstand the absolute "fires of hell" but, when a child is involved with untold problems and the marriage is on thin ice anyway - someone is going to bolt.  Apparently, from news reports, he left in 2009 and the divorce was final in 2010.   Left her with the house and a very healthy alimony.   He has since re-married. 


Who knows.  Maybe he just couldn't take it anymore.  Maybe they tried to get him help and nothing worked.  Maybe they had a difference of opinion on his confinement.  Or maybe, he finally just said - ENOUGH!  Some people just can't handle a situation like this one.


And, as I've said before, you just can't imagine unless you've lived it. 

5 years ago

I know how it is with bi-polar people, both family and friends, and getting help.  I agree with what you say.  I'm not disagreeing about the difficulties one can encounter in getting help, but I've heard & read differently about her attempts at trying to get help. One example:


“…Dan Holmes, owner of a landscaping firm who worked on the family’s home, said she was an avid gun collector: ‘She told me she would go target shooting with her kids.’

Sources close to the investigation also revealed last night that Nancy had recently stopped hosting monthly get-togethers for neighbors in order to look after her increasingly troubled son.

The 50-year-old is thought to have worked as a supply teacher at the elementary school where the shootings took place.

Last night it also emerged Nancy was a member of the Doomsday Preppers movement, which believes people should prepare for end of the world.

Her former sister-in-law Marsha said she had turned her home ‘into a fortress’. She added: ‘Nancy had a survivalist philosophy which is why she was stockpiling guns. She had them for defense.

‘She was stockpiling food. She grew up on a farm in New Hampshire. She was skilled with guns. We talked about preppers and preparing for the economy collapsing.’

Marsha added that her nephew had been raised by ‘kind, nurturing’ parents’. She said she last seen Adam in June but recalled nothing appeared out of the ordinary.

‘Nancy was a good mother, kind-hearted,’ she added. ‘She wasn’t one to deny reality. She would have sought psychiatric help for her son had she felt he needed it.’…”


I just read that Adam's father in NJ who had recently remarried visited his son in Conn.  He hasn't said much.  In hopefully short time he will speak out.   Exactly what kind of role did he or did he not play in his son's life?   Divorcing doesn't mean your kids are not a part of your life anymore.  I also read that she was the one who filed for divorce.


Spending too much time on the computer today, but I did see where a friend asked her if she sought help for her son & she reportedly said yes.  Differing stories here, but if the latter is true, then I feel differently although I do wonder about this prepper stuff.   Good judgment and clear thinking was lacking to some degree on her part, it seems to me.

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