Newtown tragedy makes Christmas feel a bit different

When the year 2000 struck, and people were gearing up their emergency shelters for the impending apocolypse that was “Y2K,” I was the editor of a weekly newspaper in Shelton, Conn., called The Huntington Herald.
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It was one of many owned by a larger publishing company, and we housed several weekly papers in Fairfield County, with all of them operating out of one office. Most of us got along fairly well, and you had a general understanding of the entire Fairfield County area because you were constantly engaged in conversations with journalists who worked in any number of towns in the community.

It was a fun place to work, as there were always politically-charged stories to cover in the area, and if you got bored with the doldrums of suburbia, it was a quick and easy trip to New York City. Outside of Bridgeport and New Haven, crime was not a major problem, and postcard makers could have a field day shooting the majesty of the changing leaves during autumn.

It was a little slice of Americana, and to this day I find myself fondly remembering many of those huge white houses decked out in decorations during the Christmas season, or menorahs casting their glow out of windows. I also got to pull the “I’m not revealing my source” quote during an active police investigation, which is just pure gold in this business. You know, reporters say it all the time in movies and television, but you just don’t get to whip that out as often as you’d think and it’s a blast to be able to ...

But I digress.

I look back at that chapter of my life fondly, and will always remember my co-workers and neighbors there. They’ve been on my mind quite a bit lately as coverage continues on the school shooting in Newtown, about 15 miles up the road from my old office.

I’ve heard a few of the reporters in this office say over the past week that they couldn’t imagine having to cover the tragic events that saw 26 innocent people gunned down in an elementary school, including 20 children ages 6 and 7. I nod my head in agreement, knowing that they will carry the scars of chasing those stories around for the rest of their lives, and I don’t envy the responsibilities of the editors of the papers in that area who have to juggle what is important for the public to know with what is simply too intrusive or graphic.

It all makes the Town of Ocean View’s history of squabbling seem incredibly irrelevant and trivial — which, by the way, it often is.

Like many of you, I was glued to the television for several days following the latest information on the shootings. I fell asleep Friday night watching coverage, and I woke up to it again Saturday morning, unable to change the channel even though I knew a small piece of me was dying with every new bit of information that was being released. It was heartbreaking and sad, changing my mood from tears welling in my eyes to anger raging deep inside.

I wanted something to be done. Anything to be done. I was upset that the shooter took his own life, and would not be facing the music for his actions, and relieved that he was dead, so the families would not have to suffer through the added pain of a trial. I was imagining in my head how excited those children undoubtedly were with Christmas right around the corner, and devestated by the thought that those families would never again have the kind of holidays they thought they’d be enjoying for decades.

As my mind raced uncontrollably, I thought of how the world had been robbed of these children’s futures. Would one of them have come up with the cure for cancer? Become president of the United States? Created art that soothed pain or opened minds? We’ll never know.

It’s Christmas next week, and I’ll have the joy of spending that day with family. I’ve already shaken hands with friends I won’t see before next Tuesday and wished them a happy holiday, and put cards up in the living room from loved ones. I will wake up that morning, have a big cup of coffee and watch “A Christmas Story” for about the 1,000th time before eating a holiday ham and ultimately falling asleep on the couch at about 6 p.m.

Besides offering love and support for those affected by the shootings, and remembering those who passed, there is little we can do for those folks. They will continue to mourn, and they will have to somehow move ahead with their lives. All we can do is appreciate what we do have — or, more importantly, “who” we do have.