December 14, 2013


Today is a year since Sandy Hook. Friday, December 14, 2012, my husband and I were at the Christkindlmarket located in Daley Plaza in downtown Chicago. The open air old-world German market is a holiday tradition for us. We feast on bratwurst and potato pancakes and drink hot mulled wine and hot chocolate while navigating crowds of tourists and office workers on break. The atmosphere is festive. An enormous Christmas tree towers above colorful booths where mostly German vendors sell toys and holiday ornaments. Everywhere are delicious aromas of food and roasted candied nuts. There is a menorah, a nativity scene, and a Santa house. Entertainment includes brass bands, dance troops, and Christmas choirs. Music fills the air—along with the sound of children’s voices and laughter.

On Dearborn Street, directly across the street from Daley Plaza, a jumbo television screen is mounted on the side of a building. Last year at this time, breaking news of the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut was playing out on the screen. The story unfolded slowly and there was a continuous video-loop of terrified parents arriving at the scene and crying children being led from the school.

I remember it vividly. I couldn’t look away from the screen. It felt surreal—as I stood transfixed amongst the joviality of the market, being jostled by the crowd, watching as increasingly shocking information emerged. Traditionally, we buy a new ornament every year. Last year, I said I didn’t want one. I knew it would forever remind me of Sandy Hook. And that was before all the horrifying details were revealed—before the days and weeks of mourning that followed.

This year, I’ve had no desire to return to the Christkindlmarket. I know I’d find myself glancing toward the jumbo screen—my mind replaying what my eyes saw last year on this day. Maybe we’ll go next year. Maybe not.

In the meantime, I’ve researched as much as I can about how the Newtown community has dealt with the tragedy. Over the past year there have been memorial ceremonies, tribute concerts, candle-lit vigils, charities established, and playgrounds built. Green and white ribbons and bracelets have been worn in remembrance—for what will never be forgotten.

Heartbroken parents have bravely produced videos recording the lives of their lost children. The two I watched tore my heart out. One tells of “The Sandy Hook Promise” to build a safer future through finding “solutions to violence.” The other celebrates the power of LOVE over evil.

The Sandy Hook families, the Newtown community, our nation, and we as individuals ripped apart by this unspeakable tragedy will never really heal. This season of twinkling lights, pealing bells and Christmas carols will always hold painful reminders of the innocent lives lost that terrible December day. But the remarkable ability of the human spirit to rise above immeasurable heartbreak and bond together for GOOD is reason for “Hallelujah!”

Chicago Musicians Care has produced a beautiful video that can be viewed below. The song, “Hallelujah!” can be purchased from iTunes, with all profits benefitting the Newtown community.