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On the Third Anniversary of Sandy Hook

Light Your Candle and Pass on the Flame

Published in ChicagoNow, December 14, 2015

Today is the third anniversary of the day a shooter invaded Sandy Hook Elementary School and shot 20 six and seven-year-olds and six adults to death. Yesterday was Worldwide Candle Lighting Day. It was also Hanukkah. As we lit the menorah with my son and his family in Boston, I shared my young grandsons’ delight in seeing the candles ablaze. And I tried hard not to picture my kindergarten-age grandson hiding in terror from a gunman’s bullets.

On my way home from Boston, I reminded myself that we needed to light a Yahrzeit (memorial) candle after we returned home to commemorate the date of my father-in-law’s death. And I thought about the candles people left at memorials for the people slaughtered in Paris and San Bernadino.

Candles can mean so many things. From romance, holiday cheer, birthdays, and blessings of peace to remembrance and unity in sorrow. But I’m choosing to think about the Italian proverb, “A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle.” In fact, more candles create more light and a shared purpose.

On my “glass half-full” days, I think about the power we have when we join together, lighting each other’s candles to create a light greater than what we could have done alone. I have always been inspired by Margaret Meade’s wise words:

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

But today is one of my “glass half-empty” days. When gun violence invaded Sandy Hook Elementary School and 20 innocent children were slaughtered, along with six adults, I was so sure that was the final straw. I had grandchildren the same age as the victims. The children were so beautiful, so trusting, so full of promise. How could we not enact some basic gun safety legislation in the wake of such an atrocity?

But we didn’t. And since December 14, 2012, at least 554 kids have died from guns, both intentional and accidental, in America. That’s a child every other day for the past three years. That’s simply unacceptable.

I recently saw the movie Bridge of Spies. In it, there was a scene all too familiar to many in the audience, including me. Children were practicing how to hide under their desks in case Russia dropped a nuclear bomb. Many of us watching chuckled over how naïve we were back then and how ridiculous it was to teach kids that this would keep them safe.

Now my grandkids in public schools practice hiding in closest and against the wall of a locked room. They must not make a sound. I don’t know how they explain these “safety drills” to them, but no one is chuckling anymore. It’s not ridiculous to think they may have to do this someday.

When we light a memorial candle for my father-in-law, who died 43 years ago today, I will also be thinking of the innocents who died at Sandy Hook and in the three years since this anniversary. I am weary but also angry. So, I am thinking of this post as lighting my candle and I hope you will use it to light your own candle and pass on the flame. By lighting each other’s candles, perhaps we can create a flame large enough to show our politicians we have had enough. We need solutions to our gun violence epidemic. And we need them now. Today.

Rather than despair alone in the darkness on this third anniversary of Sandy Hook, we need to light the candles of like-minded people. The light we create together is greater than the light of our individual candles.


by Laurie Levy
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