We have all been hurt by the tragic events that took place at Sandy Hook Elementary school yesterday. It will be difficult, if not impossible to make sense of this tragedy. We may never understand why this young man with a troubled mind would act so brutally and callously against those who did him no wrong.
But we must be careful not to allow our hurt, our attempts toward empathy,and our profound sense of loss devolve into anger or hate. This will serve no purpose.
These events reminded me of another time this nation, and its school children, faced a tragedy that left us reeling. On January 28, 1986, the Space Shuttle Challenger blasted off from Cape Kennedy bearing seven astronauts. Among them was a school teacher named Christa McAuliffe.
Because she had special permission from NASA to join the crew, school children from all around the world took a break from their classes to watch the space shuttle launch. Unbeknownst to all, an O-ring on one of the massive fuel tanks was damaged. As the super-hot gases ignited in the tank, this small device failed and flames tore through the exterior of the tank.
There was no way to shield the children from this tragedy. There was no way to prepare them for what they saw. Millions of children were stunned that day as was an entire nation.
That night, President Ronald Reagan appeared on national TV to help start the healing process. In, what I view as his finest moment, the President spoke to the nation and its children about the tragedy. He ended his speech from a line of the poem High Flight by John Gillespie Magee which reads:
“…[they] slipped the surly bonds of earth to touch the face of God.”
As you seek to frame this tragedy in its proper context, I urge each of you to view this video from LDS.org that speaks to the concept of tragedies and the hope that follows when we have an open heart. I pray that you will allow this message to reawaken the spirit of Christmas to speak peace to your souls.
Remember, it is in the midst of tragedy that we are more open to recognize the tender mercies of a loving Heavenly Father.