Guns and deaths in idyllic Connecticut

By Rene Meily

People come to Connecticut to find nature, a piece of land and serenity. It is a nice mix of the small town and country lifestyle, with Manhattan an hour or an hour and a half away. It is less crowded and people are generally more relaxed.

All that changed on Friday, December 14th, when a young man by the name of Adam Lanza killed 27 people in Newtown in the same Fairfield County where we live. Sandy Hook School is one of the seven public schools in the borough.

The gunman decided to first kill his mother in her house. He then drove her car to Sandy Hook to shoot the children in their classroom and school officials, resulting in deaths to 27 people, including 20 children and himself. Eight first-grade boys and 12 girls perished in the attacks.
People around the world were shocked. On the day itself, many in our town wandered around with a dazed look on their faces. They wore sunglasses to hide their sadness and the swollen eyes from too many tears shed. They avoided each other’s gaze.

We personally know someone whose sister is married to the father of the assailant. After the shooting, they cancelled their holiday party scheduled for next weekend. This connection brought the tragedy much closer to home. As parents, we can only imagine how hard it would be to lose a child. We received several emails from our son’s school principal, reassuring us that the school is safe, that security will be increased and that there will be more drills and simulated lockdowns. In a lockdown, teachers and students practice running for safety, locking the doors and hiding if there is a shooting or any other kind of incident. As far as I know, America is one of the few countries where such drills are regularly practiced and in fact needed.

Although we once lived in upstate New York where almost everyone owns a gun and is a hunter, we now clearly recognize the need for stricter controls over gun ownership. We cannot continue to live in a society where in many states, people are allowed to carry concealed weapons and to shoot someone over a mere suspicion.

The murder of 26 people by one person with guns brings home the need for tougher gun control. On the same day this happened, a crazy man in China brought a knife to a school and stabbed over 20 children, but none died. In China, you’re not allowed to own a gun. The contrast in outcomes makes clear that easy access to guns increases the number of deaths in incidents of this kind.

It is at times like this when people turn to whatever it is that they believe in – God, the family, love. They want to grab their children, hug them and tell them that they love them. There appeared to be many more people in church today and the ones with young children seemed to keep them close and cherish them.

So much has been written and broadcast about this incident. In the end, as someone I know recently said at a gathering, what is important to remember is that “life is short; love each other fiercely.”

Rene ‘Butch’ Meily, the president of the Philippine American Chamber of Commerce of New York, lives with his wife and son in Stamford, which is 42 miles or about an hour’s drive from Newtown.

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