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Names enough for now

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By Meaghan Downs

The names of the children read like an honor roll list.
Charlotte Bacon, 6
Olivia Engel, 6
Josephine Gay, 7
Ana Marquez-Greene, 6
Jack Pinto, 6
Noah Pozner, 6
Twenty children in all. An entire classroom-size group of students, not listed or honored for achieving good grades, but black and white names printed in memoriam of their deaths on the Sunday front page of the New York Times.
I haven’t been able to get 27 names out of my head all weekend.
The day before the horrifying mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary, I sat in a metal folding chair to watch a Saffell Street Christmas musical.
I snapped photos of smiling third, fourth and fifth graders singing about Santa Claus.
A few third graders flapped large pigeon wings in the wings of the stage.
New York City newsboys slapped rolled up newspapers into their young palms, hawking the news with the familiar “Extra, Extra, read all about it!”
The next day I don’t know anyone who wasn’t reading or watching or hearing or listening all about the unbelievable events unfolding in Connecticut.
Unbelievable is really the only adjective I can grasp.
Words can only go so far. Sometimes, words fail.
Some truth-seekers want to know everything about the victims, wishing to understand.
Some turn off the news, wishing to turn away.
For those at an arm’s distance from the Connecticut tragedy, all we really can do, unfortunately, is think of ourselves.
Our teachers.
Our sisters.
Our grandchildren.
Our nieces and nephews.
Our children yet unborn, unexposed to the ugliness of a world that can still shock and disturb us when we least expect it.
We hug our own children, feeling the life and breath still in their bodies.
We feel a selfish relief that many Sandy Hook Elementary parents will not feel.
We attempt to mourn, pray and sympathize to aid our own helpless in alleviating Newtown’s insatiable sadness.
We pray. We talk.
The talking about Sandy Hook will not stop for a long, long time.  
In the next few weeks, the deaths of little children will fall into the shadow of the gun control debate. Of politicians weighing in on the House and Senate floor with borrowed grief for their own ends.
I agree that now is the time to have conversation about answers, if any, can be found through this tragedy.
The line for conversation, however, is a sensitive one, as is the case with all tragedy.
Do not use these children to further your own argument for or against more restrictions on gun control.  
At the same time, do not allow the names of these children to be buried in a mass grave, forgotten.
I wish I had the answers.
I could list statistics on both sides of the argument, for all of us to dive into and dissect and pick apart for fallacies.
For now, I will list the names.
Charlotte Bacon.
Daniel Barden.
Rachel D’ Avino.
Olivia Engel.
Josephine Gay.
Dylan Hockley.
Dawn Lafferty Hochsprung.
Madeleine F. Hsu.
Ana Marquez-Greene
Nancy Lanza.
Jesse Lewis.
Emilie Parker.
Jack Pinto.
Noah Pozner.
Caroline Previdi.
Jessica Rekos.
Avielle Richman.
Lauren Rousseau.
Mary Sherlach.
Victoria Soto.
Benjamin Wheeler.
Allison N. Wyatt.
Catherine N. Hubbard.
Grace McDonnell.
Anne Marie Murphy.
James Mattioli.
Chase Kowalski.