Robbie Parker, Dad of Sandy Hook Victim, Emilie Parker, on Compassion
Scott and I watched the CBS Special on the Sandy Hook Massacre on television last night after the kids went to bed. We have not talked to the boys yet. We didn't have the facts. We are still wrestling with what to say and to whom. Some of the advice I have heard is that for children five years old and younger, we should simply shield them from this. So, it's only Ben, who returns to his school tomorrow, that we need to tell.
One of the most powerful things we saw on the special last night was the father of little Emilie Parker describing her beautiful outlook on life, her love for art, her kind words toward everyone she ever met. The above clip shows that side of his comments. What it doesn't show is a few minutes later in the show, when the cameras came back to him and he admitted plain as day not having any clue how to recover from this. He and his wife have two other little girls at home. It was such an honest depth-of-raw moment.
How does anyone recover?
And then he did something amazing. He looked right into the camera and spoke to the family of the shooter, offering compassion, saying that he understood how painful this must be for them as well. He said he and his family would be offering their love and prayers to that family as well as to all the others who have lost loved ones in this event.
When even television commentators were calling the shooter a monster, Robbie Parker had the strength of character to remember that this is a family who is suffering right along with the rest of us. That family will be scrutinized, those survivors have been marked and they will live with this heartache and these questions perhaps longer than anyone else. They didn't only lose family members, one of their family is responsible for all the other loss. It is a burden I cannot imagine.
The other piece of advice I heard was attributed to Morgan Freeman. It turned out not to be said by the actor, but it's still advice I'm taking: Do not speak the name of the shooter. Our culture has become obsessed with the doings of madmen. We idolize them with our twisted attention. When we can turn the tide of journalism to stop creating larger than life images of the people who do atrocities, perhaps we can stop the flow of shootings. To a mentally ill, sad, or miserable person wanting to die, there is a romanticized idea of becoming great in death -- to be seen as a vicious monster -- instead of just a sad, pathetic person.
This is our challenge. To remember at least the name of one victim, and never again mention the name of the attacker.
Emilie Parker is the name I want to remember from all this, and her father, Robbie Parker, who spoke about her with a breaking voice, and showed us how to focus on love, compassion, even gratitude in the face of complete devastation.