Now more than ever, we need each other to share the pain
The most moving address on Sunday night at the interfaith ceremony at Newtown, Connecticut, was a prayer sung beautifully in Hebrew by a rabbi. All the other representatives of the other faiths spoke poignantly also, joining in the acknowledgment: “Now, more than ever, we need each other.”
Barack Obama sat among the people of Newtown for an hour or so until it was his turn to speak and I suspect I was not alone among the world television audience in wondering how he could credibly join in a memorial ceremony for the massacre of 20 five- and six-year-old children, since he had been the agent of bringing massacre to thousands of children in Afghanistan, Pakistan and elsewhere over the last four years. But he did, magnificently.
He opened by quoting from one of the most celebrated and repeated Christian texts, the second letter of Paul to the Corinthians: “Do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, inwardly we are being renewed day by day.”
He said: “I can only hope it helps for you to know that you’re not alone in your grief, that our world too has been torn apart, that all across this land of ours we have wept with you. We’ve pulled our children tight. And you must know that whatever measure of comfort we can provide we will provide. Whatever portion of sadness that we can share with you to ease this heavy load, we will gladly bear it. Newtown, you are not alone.”
He spoke of the teachers who were also killed in the massacre: “Dawn Hocksprung and Mary Sherlach, Vicki Soto, Lauren Russeau, Rachel Davino and Anne Marie Murphy, they responded as we all hope we might respond in such terrifying circumstances, with courage and with love, giving their lives to protect the children in their care.”
Speaking of the community of Newtown, he said: “In the face of indescribable violence, in the face of unconscionable evil, you’ve looked out for each other. You’ve cared for one another. And you’ve loved one another.”
Speaking of the vulnerability parents feel for their children and how, almost from their very beginning, children will grow away and how parents cannot always be there for them, he said: “It comes as a shock at a certain point where you realise no matter how much you love these kids you can’t do it by yourself, that this job of keeping our children safe and teaching them well is something we can only do together, with the help of friends and neighbours, the help of a community and the help of a nation. And in that way we come to realise that we bear responsibility for every child, because we’re counting on everybody else to help look after ours, that we’re all parents, that they are all our children.”