I never want to forget them, even though I never knew them. Like the victims of 9/11, they and their families should be remembered and stand as an example of the ills from within that our society faces.
In the midst of the most joyous time of year, it is doubly tough to face this type of tragedy. The sympathy and grief we all feel at this horrendous act of violence hits us in the stomach and almost make us want to fall to our knees in pain, even a thousand miles away from the little town where this happened.
Last holiday season, the peace of Christmas was shattered here in our community when a small girl was brutally murdered by a young man who eventually killed himself. He, too, was 20 years old at the time.
Just a few months ago we watched the news from Aurora, Colo., and before that, the news from Tuscon, Ariz.
Collectively, from every corner of our nation, thinking, caring people want to see this horrific, senseless slaughter stop.
While we know we never want to turn on the news and see another story about an innocent child killed like those who died in Newtown, Conn., we all have differing opinions on how to accomplish that.
And the question becomes are we willing to give up some of our freedoms to find a solution?
I am not talking about just the right to bear arms. That is certainly a debate that will rage on in the aftermath of Newtown.
But there is also the issue of censorship and freedom of speech, of the possible need to have limits for violence on television, in video games and in movies.
I also believe that many of these mentally ill perpetrators are unfortunately fed by their desire for a certain amount of fame or infamy from their deeds.
Some of those who commit these acts are victims themselves of our society, of broken homes, lack of parental guidance and a wasteland of morals and religious teachings.
Last week, on a bright and sunny afternoon, I was stopped behind a school bus on Main Street in Canton.
I could see the small children rushing off the bus and running toward the street where they lived.
They were carefree and happy. I remembered the vigil just days before in memory of Jorelys Rivera who was murdered in Canton last December, and I thought, this is how children should be, safe and untroubled.
Quick on the heels of that thought came concern that the children were not met by their parents at the bus stop, and I realized that as much as we want our children to be safe, in our society today they are not and we cannot let our guard down.
As traffic cranked back up and I moved forward I could see down the street. I saw that the children were actually running toward their parents and they were carefree because they did feel safe.
In the wake of Newtown, on Monday morning local law enforcement was present at schools across Cherokee County and at schools across much of our country.
These days, children need their parents to feel safe and adults need police and guns.
In the face of this tragedy, I immediately wanted a gun in our bedside table. We have guns in our home and my husband has a great respect for the need to be armed.
But now I hardly want to travel anywhere without one. Reactionary, perhaps even illogical I know, but there it is.
On the other hand, logic tells me that when we are all armed in our country it is less safe, because many who have ready access to guns are not able to be responsible.
Then there is the issue of what type of weapons should be controlled and how much. I certainly don’t think we need a machine gun in our home.
Our leaders must work together to find the right balance.
My grandmother had a saying: “There is a lot of meanness in the world.”
She lived in the simpler times I often write about, but even then evil was loose among us.
Nowadays, however, that evil seems to be raging unfettered, fed by the Internet, a lack of God in the schools and in the homes, permissiveness, promiscuity, alcohol and drugs, selfishness and greed.
If I sound alarmist, maybe it is time to be alarmed.
I myself suffered a loss at Christmas 10 years ago when my mother died on Christmas Day after a battle with cancer.
While she was 80 years old and had lived a good life, her death hit me hard. I have not been able to enjoy certain traditions on Christmas Day since then because of the memories they stir.
Finally after all these years, the sadness has begun to recede, replaced instead by memories of happy times we had during the holidays, but it has taken a lot to erase some of the sadness.
I lost my elderly mother, but these families in Newtown have lost their precious children and young adults in a tragic, senseless, heinous act.
How much harder that is.
My heart breaks for them, knowing that from now on every Christmas tree and carol and school play will serve to open the wounds they are suffering now and will endure for the rest of their lives.
I pray they will find the peace that transcends understanding.
Another thing my grandmother would say to me when I was young, and she was well into her 80s at the time, was that she did not want to outlive her children.
My aunt and uncle were in their 60s then and that thought seemed strange to me as a child since they all seemed old.
But after I grew up I understood the fear each mother and father and grandmother and grandfather feels, no matter how old their children.
My prayer this holiday season is that each of us can help find a way to make our world better and safer for our children.
We may have to give up some things to accomplish that. I could quit watching violent television shows for one.
We must censor ourselves, police ourselves, so that our society can find the path to healing.
The message and promise of Christmas is one of peace, love and joy.
I pray that we as a nation can find that spirit this holiday season, even in the midst of the tragedy in a small town in Connecticut.