On the one year anniversary of the mass school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut on Saturday, Dec. 14, 2013 President Barack Obama and the nation remembered the 26 victims of the second worse mass school shooting in United States. Although Newtown did not hold any public memorials and requested their privacy from the media and rest of the country, church bells rang, flags were at half mast. President Obama dedicated his weekly address to the memory of those who died so tragically, while renewing his push that Congress pass major gun control legislation. Both the President and First Lady Michelle Obama observed a minute of silence and lit 26 candles for each victim.
The sounds of chiming church bells ringing 26 times could be heard across Connecticut at 9:30 a.m. following the lead of St. Rose of Lima church in Newtown, the church were a majority of the victims' funerals were held last year. It was only few churches that held private memorials where the victims' names were read. However, the town refused to hold a memorial and requested that the press keep their distance and let the anniversary go over quietly.
At the same time the President and First Lady observed a moment of silence for the victims, and lit 26 candles for each of the victims, the six administrators and teachers and the 20 six and seven year old first graders who were killed on Dec. 14, 2012.
Earlier in the day the White House released President Obama's weekly address entitled; "Marking the One-Year Anniversary of the Tragic Shooting in Newtown, Connecticut" where the President both honored the memory of the victims, and the parents of the children who died that day, and made another push to urge Congress to pass some sort of gun control legislation to prevent these tragedies in the future, all without ever using the word gun throughout his whole address.
President Obama began his weekly address remembering the horrible events from that day, and initial reactions to the horror; "As parents, as Americans, the news filled us with grief. Newtown is a town like so many of our hometowns. The victims were educators and kids that could have been any of our own. And our hearts were broken for the families that lost a piece of their heart; for the communities changed forever; for the survivors, so young, whose innocence was torn away far too soon."
Continuing he commended the strength of the parents of the 20 children that were lost, and their efforts to convince both the government and the country that legislation was needed to prevent further heartbreak from occurring. As Obama recounted; "From the very beginning, our efforts were led by the parents of Newtown - men and women, impossibly brave, who stepped forward in the hopes that they might spare others their heartbreak. And they were joined by millions of Americans - mothers and fathers; sisters and brothers - who refused to accept these acts of violence as somehow inevitable."
President Obama praised the efforts of the families of the victims who worked this year toward convincing the government to pass gun control laws; "Over the past year, their voices have sustained us. And their example has inspired us -- to be better parents and better neighbors; to give our children everything they need to face the world without fear; to meet our responsibilities not just to our own families, but to our communities. More than the tragedy itself, that's how Newtown will be remembered."
In the latter half of his address the President shifted from honoring the memory of the victims and the families left behind, to urging the necessity of gun control legislation, explaining; "We haven't yet done enough to make our communities and our country safer. We have to do more to keep dangerous people from getting their hands on a gun so easily. We have to do more to heal troubled minds. We have to do everything we can to protect our children from harm and make them feel loved, and valued, and cared for."
Obama referring to primarily the Republican's refusal to pass gun control legislation, expressed; "And as we do, we can't lose sight of the fact that real change won't come from Washington. It will come the way it's always come - from you. From the American people."
The President concluded that something needs to be done to make the country safer and end the stream of gun violence, urging the public to pressure Congress to pass legislation; "As a nation, we can't stop every act of violence. We can't heal every troubled mind. But if we want to live in a country where we can go to work, send our kids to school, and walk our streets free from fear, we have to keep trying. We have to keep caring. We have to treat every child like they're our child. Like those in Sandy Hook, we must choose love. And together, we must make a change."
On that terrible day, in Dec. 2012, that quiet "bucolic" small Connecticut town of 28,000 changed forever, as tragedy struck when Adam Lanza, 20 destroyed Newtown's innocence within a couple of minutes. He first killed his mother at their family home, and then shot his way into the Sandy Hook Elementary School at 9:30 a.m. killing, the principal and school administrators on the way then barging into the two first grade classrooms and killing 20 six and seven year olds and the teachers trying to protect them, before turning the gun on himself.
In the aftermath, there were calls for gun-control legislation that would prevent further tragedies and disasters, but a bill to "expand background checks" could not muster enough votes in the Senate to pass. Subsequent proposals to ban semiautomatic assault weapons and limit the ammunition magazines to 10 rounds never even made it to a vote. The only thing President Obama could do was a few executive orders that were limited in scope and get the Undetectable Firearms Act extended by Congess.
A year later on Dec. 13 almost to the day there was another shooting in Centennial, Colorado, where Karl Halverson Pierson, 18 the teenage gunman entered his high school, Arapahoe High School bent on seeking revenge on his debate coach, who expelled him from the team. Instead he shot at his classmates, and shooting a female classmate in the head, she remains in critical condition, while her shooter killed himself in the school, ending a two-minute reign of terror. The event made the wound deeper about the Newtown tragedy, the memory more vivid, the debate for gun control and a solution to end the epidemic of mass shootings in the United States all the more relevant and necessary.
In Colorado, the motive was known, at Newtown the motive remain unanswered, after Connecticut's official report released at the end of November, could not pinpoint the motive or connection other that Lanza briefly attended the school as a child. The school has since been demolished, but the pain remains for all the families touched by tragedy on the date. The family of the administrators and teachers killed devastated by the lost of the loved ones, and the parents of the children mourning loss of not only their children, but all the lives that could have been.
- President Barack Obama's Weekly Address: Marking the One-Year Anniversary of the Tragic Shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, Dec. 14, 2013 -- Transcript | Download mp4 | Download mp3
Bonnie K. Goodman is the Editor of the Academic Buzz Network, a series of political, academic & education blogs which includes History Musings: History, News & Politics. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies, both from McGill University, and has done graduate work in Jewish history at Concordia University as part of the MA in Judaic Studies program. Her specializations are US, Canadian & Israeli politics.