A Journey Continues With Faithful Companions
Every journey is different. Two people can follow the same path, but their footsteps will not fall on the same ground. Following someone’s footsteps still means the soles of your feet will never touch the same pieces of dirt or grains of sand as the person ahead of you. If you manage to put your soles on the same dirt or sand of the person in front of you, something would have already shifted, just enough, so that the journey would still be different for each traveler.
Eleven years ago this month Sandy Hook went from sharing its name with a shoreline community in New Jersey to its own identity. Ours is now a town often tied to tragedy and horror, heartbreak and even anger.
The 14 girls and six boys who died that Friday morning, each either 6 or 7 years old, should be graduating from high school in June. Of the six women who also died, some would still be educators while others would have retired by now.
We had very sad Hanukkah, Christmas, and New Year’s observations that year. We couldn’t call them celebrations. As we tried to emerge from the continued darkness, Valentine’s Day arrived, along with Hearts of Hope and Life is Precious. The former hung dozens of palm-sized ceramic hearts with personal messages of positivity and the latter delivered thousands of cupcakes to Newtown’s first responders, the immediate families of those who lost loved ones on 12/14, and the children of Sandy Hook School.
To be fair, ours is still a town of resilience and kindness, joys and celebrations. The worst day in Newtown’s history cannot take that away. We have proven that.
Newtown Interfaith Council members began offering monthly interfaith prayer gatherings that year. For months, members of Newtown Interfaith Clergy Association (as it was then called), invited residents and friends to join them at different locations in town. They offered monthly themes and invited guests to pray for rest and renewal, for those returning to school, for the community at large.
As months turned into years, the council continued to host annual interfaith events each December 14 to remember and honor those killed on 12/14. The gatherings also offered companionship for those who attended, regardless of where they were on their post-12/14 life journey. The council doesn’t pretend to offer every answer to every attendee. Its members do not pretend to speak for the families, nor even this town as a whole.
What they do offer, members said last week, is hope and companionship. The 11th annual Interfaith Gathering of Remembrance is planned for next Thursday evening. Leaders and representatives from this town’s communities of faith will be there whether one person or 100 people join them. They will be there knowing that the immediate family members of those who died that morning probably will not be there. The leaders of faith will be there because they still believe in hope, and strength, and offering companionship to everyone regardless of where anyone is in their post-12/14 life. They will welcome every person who decides to join them inside 36 Main Street or from the virtual location of their choice.
Regardless of where you, your neighbor, your spouse, or your friends are, we are all on a journey to continue living after 12/14. In this town, you are not alone.