Remembering the families of Newtown one year after the school shooting

December 13, 2013

As we commemorate the one-year anniversary of the mass shooting of twenty children and six adults at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, take some time over the weekend to watch this excerpt from one of Oprah Winfrey’s Super Soul Sunday programs.  This 4-minute video features Francine and David Wheeler, whose 6-year old son Ben was killed on that terrible day.  Oprah interviews the couple about Ben’s personality and love of life and especially the last conversation he had with Francine before he went to school that fateful morning.

I don’t usually refer back to my earlier link features, but today I’d like also to revisit my links and commentary from last May 6.  I hope you will follow the links in that piece and listen to Francine Wheeler and Dar Williams as they sing “You Are My Family,” and again as they join with a larger group in singing “Blowin’ in the Wind,” led by Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul, and Mary fame.  These performances were part of a February concert in Newtown in an effort to bring some healing to the grieving community and were included in a Moyers and Company television program in which Bill Moyers interviewed the Wheelers and Peter Yarrow. The emphasis in the program is on love, caring, and making a difference in the world, including the Wheelers’ description of a program that their church has set up in Ben’s name.

An especially poignant moment in the interview occurs as Francine mentions she has some “angry days.”  Moyers asks her what she means, and she provides an example. When she saw Ben’s best friend a few months after the shooting, she noticed the boy had a tooth missing.  That triggered memories of how eager Ben had been to lose a baby tooth and how he had kept asking her when he would experience this childhood passage that was happening with many other children his age. “When will I lose a tooth, Mommy?”  he would often ask, and Francine would reply, “Soon, Ben.  Soon.”  She began crying as she told Moyers, “Ben never had a chance to lose a tooth.”

Life is made up of such ordinary everyday events, and no longer being able to share such moments with a loved one now forever gone leaves a big hole in the hearts of the families of Newtown.  Let’s remember them in prayer on December 14.  And be sure to listen to the music mentioned above.  I listen to it often and am deeply moved every time.  You will be, too.

Letha Dawson Scanzoni
Letha Dawson Scanzoni (1935-2024) was an independent scholar, writer, and editor, and the author or coauthor of nine books. In 1978, she and Virginia Ramey Mollenkott wrote Is the Homosexual My Neighbor?, one of the earliest books urging evangelical Christians to rethink their views on homosexuality (updated edition, 1994, HarperOne). More recently, Letha coauthored (with social psychologist David G. Myers) What God Has Joined Together: The Christian Case for Gay Marriage (HarperOne, 2005 and 2006). Another of Letha’s most well-known books is All We’re Meant to Be: Biblical Feminism for Today, coauthored with Nancy A. Hardesty (Word Books, 1974; revised edition, Abingdon, 1986; updated and expanded edition, Eerdmans, 1992). Letha served as editor of Christian Feminism Today in both its former print edition (EEWC Update) and its website for 19 years until her retirement in December 2013.