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McKinstry: Long debates ahead, but for now Sandy Hook needs our support
NEWTOWN, Conn. -- Barry and Cheryl Ogowetsky brought a bouquet of flowers to a makeshift memorial outside Newtown High School.
It was a small gesture like so many others here in recent days.
Thousands of people trekked to this picturesque New England town on Sunday to pay respects and mourn with a community that is struggling in the aftermath of the mass killings of 20 children and six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
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Somehow, the Ogowetskys hoped, this latest tragedy would finally spur action in a nation obsessed with guns.
“How much lower does it have to go?” Barry Ogowetsky, of Yorktown Heights, said outside the high school, frustrated with the futile political debate over gun laws. “You’re shooting kindergarten kids.”
We’ve seen this sort of gun violence in this country – more recently in malls, movie theaters and temples.
This latest one in Newtown has spurred all sorts of emotions. Throughout the day, people lit candles, prayed and shared hugs with friends, loved ones and strangers.
Many tears were shed. And for so many people, there was no getting away from a discussion on guns.
Standing in front of a memorial along the town's main street, Jane Philbrick said she felt a sense of “muted despair” over this barbarism. It was about time for our political leaders show courage, she said. She hoped the president would seize the moment.
President Barack Obama acknowledged past events during an 18 minute speech at a vigil last night. He said it was the fourth time he’s grieved with families of this sort of violence and that a nation must protect its children.
“We can’t tolerate this anymore,” the president said, speaking in an auditorium at the high school. “This trend must end – and to end it, we must change.”
We must change. But will we?
Long after the emotions are a little less raw and the cameras and spotlight leave this town, will we demand change from our leaders? Will our voices be more resolute than any lobby or political inaction?
Let's hope so.
The issues are complex -- perhaps far more than just guns or mental health -- and they deserve a fair and complete airing.
That will take time.
For now, a town and nation are grieving. We must be there for them.