On most days, Facebook is my playground, my personal sandbox to create, joke, poke, like or simply watch from a street corner of my virtual neighborhood.
It changed today, once we heard the news. Instantly, the virtual world became a group therapy session for us all.
When we learned of the unspeakable horror from Newtown, Conn., I saw you express your shock, your disbelief on how this could happen. Jokes, games, “bored” status updates and political debates didn’t matter anymore.
It’s been awhile since something stopped me like this. Because I’m a cynical, jaded journalist who’s numb to these alarmingly more frequent displays of evil. When the recent mall shooting happened in Oregon, I expressed my shock and horror before quickly diving back into the bologna of life.
Today was different. This one punched me in the gut, stopped me cold. Several times through out the day, I fought back the tears as I saw the images from Sandy Hook Elementary. Suddenly, the joking ceased in the newsroom. Nobody wanted to talk.
“Nothing to say today. I just keep thinking of those children in Connecticut … and crying,” one of you said on Facebook. I imagined most of us nodded our heads in agreement.
My friend and former colleague wrote this wonderful piece that moved quickly around the Internet. Her words comforted me, offered me some peace as I struggled just like you to make sense of this.
Others of you shared news tidbits as they poured in real-time.
“Our hearts go out,” more than one of you said.
Some revived the gun control debate and we watched as our president fought back tears as he spoke to the nation. At that point, I could care less about his political ideology. All I knew is that was a dad just like me. (A dad with more financial assets and a much bigger house.)
Others shared pictures of Jesus Christ holding little children on your Facebook walls.
When you talked of hugging your own children, fearing for their safety and never letting them go, it made me think of my own boys. About all those times I shoved them out the door in the morning with a rushed attitude and words with more gruff than love.
Today reminded me again that they could be like those little children in Newtown. If I got that call from a police officer or a school official, could I live with my last words.
I watched as more than one of you asked the question: Now what? How do we go on?
Grabbing our loved ones and barricading ourselves in a secure room seemed very appealing at first. Until I read this quote from my friend Dezi on Facebook.
“Many tragedies occur in this world. We can allow those events to consume us to the point where hide inside our homes, segregate our families, and just generally live in fear. But those tragedies will still inevitably occur. And although we could probably save ourselves and our children from some of those tragedies simply by secluding ourselves from the world, we will ultimately lose our lives in a different way, which would take much longer and be even more tragic. For we would fail to live.”
The virtual world that links us together across the world served its purpose today. But it will all be for naught if we don’t look up from our phones and gadgets and look around the real world.
Not with fear or sense of foreboding. But with the resolve to reach a little higher, be a little nicer to those around us and live the best we can each day.
Sadly, it probably won’t make despicable acts evil like we saw today disappear. But it could give us just a little more trust and faith during these turbulent times.
With all the good examples of humanity I saw today, I like our chances.