What I will tell my children about the Newtown Massacre

Nat Sakunworarat
My readers, my friends, on this day after tragedy, if I could I would just sit with you and listen and validate your feelings about what has happened.  Since I can’t be there with each of you, I will share my thoughts, and hope that perhaps they will be helpful to someone in need.
Because of my past, I struggle with the concept of “safety”.  I think I stopped believing in that idea long before I stopped believing in Santa.  “No safe places,” is a mantra from long ago and deep within. 
So when I received emails from my school district, with suggestions on how to talk to children about the tragedy, and the first item on the list was “assure the children that schools are safe.”  I balked.  Big time.  How in the world can I tell them, in the light of today’s events, that schools are safe?  I would feel like a hypocrite.  I mentioned to my co-worker what a ridiculous idea I thought that was.  He said the idea is to reassure them and not….here he launched into what is best described as an imitation of Chicken Little.  Only in his version the sky was not falling, but schools were not safe.  All right, point taken, however, I still can’t tell my children schools are safe because I don’t believe in safe places.  So what should I tell them–and myself?
I wish I could tell them God will protect you.  But clearly God does not prevent these kinds of tragedies from happening, so a simple “God will protect” you is not enough.  As an adult, it comforts me to think of Jesus with Mary and Martha after Lazarus died.  Even though he knew that in a moment He would raise Lazarus from the dead, He still felt their pain and wept with them. I believe He weeps with us now, after today’s events.  That comforts me, but I don’t think that would help the children.  It sure doesn’t feel like enough.  So what then?
Sometimes inspiration comes from the strangest places, and for me it came from a quote being passed around Facebook.  This is from Fred Rogers:
“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers.  You will always find people who are helping.’
“To this day, especially in times of ‘disaster’, I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers—so many caring people in this world.”
Look for the helpers.  Yes! I love that.  In today’s tragedy there were teachers, and police men and swat teams that knew what to do and took action quickly. One of those helpers was a teacher, Kaitlin Roig.  She acted quickly, closing her classroom door and ushering all the children into the class bathroom and blocked the door.  Roig said:
“If they started crying, I would take their face and tell them, ‘It’s going to be OK,. . .I told the kids I love them and I was so happy they were my students… I said anyone who believed in the power of the prayer, we need to pray and those who don’t believe in prayer think happy thoughts.”  Article attribution here
In hurricanes, and earthquakes, there are always helpers.  That is something I can feel comfortable telling my children, “God can’t always prevent tragedies, but He will send someone to help.  When bad things happen, look for the helpers.”
One of my favorite books, The Hiding Place, reaffirms this.  Corrie Ten Boom said that she wrote the book to show that “there is no pit so deep that He is not deeper still.”  Corrie Ten Boom and her family were Christians living in Holland during Hitler’s reign.  They were part of a sort of underground railroad that helped 100’s of Jewish people escape.  However, they got caught and Corrie, her father and her sister were sent to a concentration camp.  Her sister and father died there.  Still Corrie shares in her book, many times throughout her tragedy where there were little miracles…helpers, if you will.
I can also tell my children that the children who died are in the arms of the Savior now.  They are not afraid anymore.  They are not hurting.  But what can I tell myself about the parents of those children?  I have never lost a child, and I pray I never have to know that pain.  I hope that perhaps those who have can find comfort from God who allowed His only Begotten to suffer and die for us.  Another tragedy that He could not prevent.
I don’t think that I will ever believe in safe places, but I do believe in a God who weeps with us, and sends “helpers”, maybe even angels and miracles to see us through the dark hours.

Photo Attribution: Nat Sakunworarat


  1. Thank you, Leslie! I got the same letter and was touched by the same quote but didn't quote know if/how to tell my children about this. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

  2. Leslie,I hope someday that you find a 'safe place.' I too am often worried that they don't exist, but there is power in hope. Maybe as mothers, we can give our children that safe place in the love we offer and the relationship we build with them them. Do you think maybe we can be be a safe place for them? You are so great to share your thoughts, and articulate them so well. Thank you.

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