Last week’s Sports Illustrated magazine ran a feature on Jack Pinto, whose promising life, along with those of 25 others, were mercilessly and inexplicably snuffed out one year ago this morning in what had been considered one of the most innocent of places – an elementary school.
The story, written by S.L. Price, details his car trip to his wrestling meet [for 6-year-olds, no less] at Sandy Hook Elementary the night before in which he pesters his 11-year-old brother with questions about what he thinks about Jack’s athletic future. A first-grader, sports were his passion.
Eventually, the story winds its way to early Friday morning in the Pinto household where Jack is getting ready for school. In fact, he ate his breakfast, picked out his clothes and brushed his teeth ahead of schedule – all without prodding from Mom. He even had time to play a video game, something he normally didn’t care to do, before his bus arrived to take him to school.
I can tell you this – the first time this happens in the Reed household will be the first time.
Reading this part of the story was very eerie, much like watching a PBS documentary last month on JFK, including video footage of the hours and minutes leading up to the assassination when you know what’s about to happen. I’m also reminded of another documentary on the Marshall University football plane crash in 1970 in which interviews with the coach and quarterback were shown, as well as footage from the game at East Carolina and the play-by-play call of the Thundering Herd broadcaster, all of whom perished hours later on the trip home.
The story mercifully skips over the details which are too well-known now of the murders of 20 innocent children and six brave teachers and administrators at the hands of a crazed gunman who had already took out his mother and would soon take the cowardly way out and end his own life.
I call Adam Lanza crazed because, quite frankly, the only person who seemed to really know him is dead.
Authorities recently released a detailed report on that horrific morning answering every question except the one we all want the answer to – Why?
It is probable that even if we knew the motive, it wouldn’t make the pain any easier to endure, but it would be a start.
As soon as I saw this story in the magazine, I knew it would be hard to read. As it turned out, it really wasn’t that difficult. But I did catch myself choking up a couple of times.
As the father of now-5- and 4-year-olds, this tragedy hits closer to home for me now than Columbine did 15 years ago. Though I recognize Columbine was also horrible, I didn’t have kids of my own, although I often spent time inside high schools on my job of covering high school sports.
Not only did those 26 families grieve, so did a nation. I suspect I’m still grieving more than the families. When I want to shut off Sandy Hook I do and get back to my own life. The 26 families didn’t have a choice. When I watch some of them on TV now, it appears like they’re further along in the grieving process.
I’m stuck back at last December where, as the story draws closer to its conclusion, Jack’s mom can’t stand the quiet which has replaced her two sons’ constant bickering. Dad can’t bear to look at the driveway where he played catch which his younger son.
When the Reed kids are home, it’s a veritable roller-coaster from joyfully playing to screaming and yelling, sometimes in the space of a minute. When I’m driving them both from school to Grandma’s, they usually start out as best friends, then one of them says something and the other will refuse to talk to her. But by the time we’ve arrived at our destination, they’re pals again.
As much as this can drive me crazy sometimes, when they’re gone and the house is quiet, I miss them.
At least my girls will return home, and so will the noise. In 26 Newtown, Conn., homes, the silence is deafening one year later – and forever.
Andy Reed is The Democrat’s sports editor. Email him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @wilsoncosports.