In the aftermath of the Sandy Hook shootings, I was touched by the story of Daniel Gerard Barden. The 7-year-old who was one of the victims of that awful shooting had aspired at that young age to become a firefighter. On the day of his funeral, hundreds of active firefighters came to Daniel’s funeral and stood in his honor, dressed in their dress uniforms. They came to honor this little boy, because although the link between him and them was sketchy at best, that’s what firefighters do. They love, honor and respect life. In those ranks that day were most likely firefighters who had to deal with that terrible scene days before. My heart goes out to them too. May God give their minds, the eraser they will need to wash away those scenes.
But this isn’t about firefighters and isn’t about the pageantry those firefighters tried to bestow on their little fallen friend. It’s about Danny and his unfulfilled dreams. It’s about his classmates and teachers and their ambitions and unfulfilled achievements. We well may have lost an aspiring leader that day. What more important thing can we do in this country but create a safe and decent culture for our children? We may see them as kids right now but all to soon they can and will be our leaders.
No one will ever know if Daniel would have achieved his dream. Kids at that age are all dreamers of sorts. But out of those dreams of first graders come doctors, nurses and teachers, priests, ministers and rabbis and yes, in Danny’s case, even a firefighter. All of them dedicated to making this country a better place to live. But none of this will exist, if we, their protectors, can’t keep them safe.