Six months ago today we grieved along with families in Newtown and throughout the world, as we heard the story of the twenty children gunned down as they learned, and the teachers who died trying to save them.
Our grief had a familiar feeling for both of us; a madman armed with an arsenal of dangerous weaponry changed our lives forever too. After shooting Gabby in the head and leaving her for dead, the gunman shot and killed Roxanna’s beautiful daughter Christina-Taylor, a bright, determined nine-year-old girl who had come to meet her congresswoman.
The grief of the parents of children killed in Newtown – like the families of those killed in Tucson – doesn’t diminish with anniversaries. It takes no holidays. It is not diluted by the passage of time, in contrast to its impact on our leaders, who have promised action, but were stopped by special interests. The grief of families who lose their loved ones, is, trust us, almost immovable. It is with us all every day.
Today, we send our love to the families of Newtown – the dads who won’t have their children with them on Father’s Day this weekend, the siblings who play catch and soccer alone. We know that the attention paid to anniversaries can feel surreal, as life without our loved ones is measured in moments and hours, not public markers.
We think of all the grieving families, brutally fractured by gun violence, in our country today. Today is also the one week anniversary of the shooting in Santa Monica, CA, a shooting eerily reminiscent of the Tucson and Newtown shootings. We think of the family of Carlos Franco, who was killed in his car along with his daughter, Marcela Franco. Carlos Franco was a groundskeeper at Santa Monica College where his daughter planned to study; moments before he died, he left a telephone message for his wife – letting her know they were late and that he loved her.
These are moments that stay with us forever. The last conversations, the last glimpses, the plans made and not kept as gunfire erupted. We do not choose the grief we feel – but what we do choose is what our grief is to us – what it motivates us to do. Today, we choose and pledge that we will take our grief, and on behalf of our loved ones and those lost in Newtown, in Santa Monica, in Aurora, and so many places that don’t make headlines, we will not stop fighting until our government has come to its senses.
Our country, we know, is with us. Americans in every state support common-sense solutions to reduce gun violence. Congress is out of step with their constituents by not immediately passing these measures that will save lives.
Without them, people will be killed who would otherwise live. Roxanna reminds us that her daughter Christina-Taylor was not “lost” – she was taken. By violence. Her mother made sure she had buckled her seatbelt for the drive over to meet Gabby, and that she had given Christina-Taylor a sweatshirt to keep her warm.
What the grieving families with whom we share a terrible bond all know is that they did not fail their children in the hours and moments before their deaths. What they now expect is for the government to do its job and to care for families throughout this country – any one of us – who could be the next victims of random and tragic gun violence.
We cannot bring Christina-Taylor, or the beautiful, bright faces of the first graders of Sandy Hook Elementary, back. We can tell you that, from where we stand, two years after our gun violence tragedy, we grieve our losses the same. But we have also gained clarity of purpose, and we take great joy from standing shoulder to shoulder with each other, loving stranger’s children enough to say, as if they were our own, we must do better.