The last place on earth

The Covington News - - OPINION - Michelle Kim is ed­i­tor of The Rock­dale News. She can be reached at mkim@rock­dale­news.com.

Last week has been a strange one. The un­der­cur­rent of tragedy fol­low­ing the Con­necti­cut school shoot­ing, com­bined with the con­densed pres­sure of the hol­i­days, has made it go by in a fog.

On that Fri­day, when I first heard some­thing about a shoot­ing at a mall and at a school, I lis­tened with half an ear. Frankly, I was pre­oc­cu­pied with putting out the pa­per and the ad­di­tional tasks that come with the end of the year; if it wasn’t in Rock­dale, I could deal with it to­mor­row.

In fact, it was only later in the evening that I re­al­ized with a shock the mag­ni­tude of ex­actly what had hap­pened, and that it had hap­pened at my school.

I at­tended Sandy Hook Ele­men­tary from third to fifth grade.

It’s been more than 20 years since I stepped foot in those hall­ways. All the won­der­ful teach­ers I had have long since re­tired; although, some of the kids I went to school with are prob­a­bly par­ents now with kids of their own, and, God for­bid, some of them may be at­tend­ing Sandy Hook.

Ev­ery­thing they’ve de­scribed in the broad­casts about New­town are for the most part true, if cliché. It is a quaint, small town; a bed­room com­mu­nity for larger towns and cities. A great place to raise your fam­ily, although prob­a­bly on the bor­ing side for teenagers.

I re­mem­ber New­town through a child’s eye, of course. The down­town that I knew was the ice cream store across the street from the li­brary — a stately former Vic­to­rian house con­verted into a li­brary with the won­der­ful, musty chil­dren's sec­tion up­stairs. The com­mu­nity cen­ter (or maybe it was a church) that showed free movies on Fri­day nights. I learned to swim at New­town High School’s pool, go­ing from be­ing ter­ri­fied to let go of the wall at the deep end to swim­ming laps for two hours straight. Here is where I fell head over heels for horses and then a year later, fell just as quickly out of love.

It was a great school com­mu­nity that really nur­tured its stu­dents. And it had teach­ers, some me- diocre but most ex­cel­lent, who knew the im­por­tance of their craft and were ded­i­cated above and be­yond to their stu­dents. In many ways, like Cony­ers.

See­ing the news broad­casts has been like see­ing your child­hood home be­come the site of the mur­der of the cen­tury.

The hall­ways that held the fall school car­ni­val when it was rained out; the ac­tiv­ity room where the curly-headed mu­sic teacher taught the cho­rus to a beau­ti­ful song in Latin, which we promptly changed in 9-year-old gig­gling sub­ver­sion to “The cow ate the moose, the cow ate the moose;” the art room where we had Girl Scout meet­ings; th­ese are now the sites of slaugh­ter. Th­ese walls are now wit­nesses to un­speak­able tragedies.

It truly is the last place on earth where you would ex­pect some­thing like this to hap­pen.

But even in say­ing that, it lets me know that maybe this way of think­ing was an il­lu­sion. That there is no place you can go that will ever guar­an­tee 100 per­cent im­mu­nity from the prob­lems of the world. Be­cause of­ten, we are the source of much of our prob­lems. Maybe the best we can do is take care of one an­other and take care of our com­mu­nity and trust God to take care of the rest.

MICHELLE KIM GUEST COLUM­NIST

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