One week after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary, Michelle Obama has written a letter to families in Newtown, CT. In the letter, published in The Hartford Courant, the First Lady expresses her sympathies for grieving families, gives thanks to the town’s first responders and heroic teachers — and finally, talks about how both Newtown and the country will move forward:
Over the past week, we as Americans have been united in our grief as Newtown has laid to rest so many beautiful, innocent children, along with the heroic educators who worked every day to help them achieve their dreams.
As a mother of two young daughters, my heart aches for you and your families. Like so many Americans, I wish there were something — anything — I could do or say to ease your anguish.
But I know that I cannot begin to imagine the depths of your grief. I know that for many of you, the pain you are enduring right now seems unbearable; and many of you may be asking yourselves, how can we go on — as families and as a community?
But I also know that we have already begun to see the answer to that question in the countless acts of courage, kindness and love here in Newtown and across America.
Over the past week, I have been awed and inspired by Newtown’s heroes: the first responders who risked their lives at a moment’s notice; the educators whose devotion to their students shone brightest in one of our nation’s darkest hours; the children who comforted each other despite their fear; the families coming together to support each other as they grieve.
And I am so proud of the outpouring of love and support that has come from every corner of America: from first responders from neighboring cities rushing to help however they could; from people in Cleveland and Charlotte and Juneau and so many other communities joining together to honor Newtown with their thoughts and prayers; and in living rooms and houses of worship and the halls of our government, where we are beginning to have those difficult conversations about how we can build a safer, more peaceful tomorrow for all our children.
And I want you to know that this is just the beginning. As my husband has said, in the coming weeks, he will use all the powers of his office to engage citizens from across this country to find ways to prevent tragedies like this one. And please know that every minute of every day, we are thinking of you, and praying for you, and holding you and your families in our hearts as you begin the slow and wrenching work of healing and moving forward.
In the months and years ahead, may the memories of those beautiful children and those heroic adults be a blessing for their families, for your community, and for our country, and may God bless you all.
First Lady Michelle Obama, Washington, D.C.
In another letter released on the White House blog, the First Lady wrote to parents across the country, discussing how to talk to kids about Newtown:
Like every American, Barack and I are absolutely heartbroken about the unspeakable tragedy that occurred last week in Newtown, Connecticut. And like so many of you, our first reactions were not as a President and First Lady, but as a Mom and Dad. We were asking ourselves, what if this had been our town, or our school, or our girls?
And we know that all across the country, it’s not just adults who are asking questions right now – our children are looking for answers as well. Like us, they want to know, why did this happen?
Could it happen again? And as parents, all of us can take the time to hold our kids close and talk with them about the things that truly matter: our love for them, the importance of extending that love to those affected by this tragedy, and how that love truly defines our great American community.
We can tell our kids that we’re doing everything we can to keep them safe and make sure they feel loved – and so are their teachers, coaches, faith leaders, Scout leaders and everyone else who plays a role in their lives.
We can remind them to be grateful for the educators who work every day to help them achieve their dreams – and for the first responders who risk their lives at a moment’s notice to protect ours.
We can tell them about the extraordinary people of Newtown and how they have responded to unspeakable tragedy: the educators who sprang into action; the children who carefully followed instructions and comforted each other amidst the chaos; the neighbors and faith leaders who have come together to support one another.
And finally, we can tell them that it’s our job now to stand with the people of Newtown – to pray for them and to find ways, large and small, to show them that they are not alone in their grief. It is now up to us to carry the memory of those who were lost in our hearts and to follow their example every day, living our lives as they lived theirs – with courage, determination, hope and love. Those are the values that give us our strength as Americans and that we return to in times of crisis – not just because they help us heal, but because they define who we are, as a people and as a nation.
May the memories of those we lost be a blessing to their families, their community and our country, and may God be with the people of Newtown as they begin the slow and painful work of healing and moving forward.