Wednesday, December 26, 2012

"26 Angels"

I had planned to write a Christmas blog post, or maybe even two. The stress of holiday preparations, perhaps. Creating family traditions, definitely. That post was under way.

But then a severely troubled young man with access to his mother's cache of guns unleashed his fury on twenty-six innocent lives at the purest of places: an elementary school. Twenty of the Newtown, Connecticut, victims were children -- first graders, in fact, just like my son Charlie.

Like the rest of America, I am heartbroken. These were six and seven years olds just beginning their lives. They were playing soccer, drawing pictures, building with Legos, drumming, baking cookies, and buying toys for needy kids. They were in their first year of Daisy Scouts and Little League. They adored their parents, helped their younger siblings, and loved school. Looking at my son, I cannot fathom the depth of the pain the families are experiencing right now and during the Christmas season to boot!

Connecticut is my home state. I grew up only thirty-five miles south of Newtown -- in the very same county, by the way. So I have wanted to help. Well, this week I got my chance.

As part of my ongoing networking effort on behalf of my older son, I joined a Facebook page on Friday for parents of child actors in the area. Immediately, I saw a notice seeking children for a tribute video for the victims' families that would be posted on YouTube. All monies raised from the video would be donated to build and beautify a memorial park at the site of the shootings. I contacted the video's director, and Christopher was accepted for the project that evening. Less than two days later, we headed to Manchester, NH, for the audio recording in a studio atop an old mill building. And today the video was shot in the Andover, MA, High School auditorium.

My eyes welled up with tears as I listened to the brave boys and girls assembled from across New England sing the chorus to 26 Angels, a song written and performed by Justin Cohen and accompanied by five other musicians. Boston filmmaker Ben Proulx directed the children as they represented the twenty youngest victims. Each child sang while holding a sign dedicated to a Sandy Hook Elementary School student.

Christopher decorated the sign honoring Chase Kowalski, a blond-haired and blue-eyed boy just full of life. By all accounts, he was an absolute dynamo -- very much like Charlie. He loved watching the New York Yankees, riding his bike and a four-wheeled quad, being a Tiger Scout, playing baseball, swimming in a lake, and enjoying the outdoors in any and every capacity. When he was six, he won his first-ever triathlon. Yes, triathlon! If Chase wasn't a star, I don't know who is.

Now he and his equally beautiful and impressive classmates are angels forever.

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