I wanted to speak out against the senseless act of vandalism that has occurred in Nelsonville this past week. Nelsonville spent thousands of dollars to create a holiday attraction full of lights and decorations on the town square. Twice within the past week, decorative nutcrackers were heavily damaged by vandals.

While the acts of those vandals are certainly frustrating and serve no purpose other than to destroy the hard work and positive efforts of those in the Nelsonville community, this column must take a dramatic turn and instead addresses a national tragedy that took place Friday in the truly senseless killing of more than two dozen people, including 18 children at a Connecticut school.

Early reports indicate a 24-year-old man with ties to Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, Conn. took guns into the building and opened fire. It doesn’t get any more senseless than this.

There’s nothing that those children could have done to have warranted this. There’s no excuse fathomable to describe this situation. The gunman is dead but the nation will not mourn him nor should they. Our energies should be focused on the victims’ families and the longterm repercussions of this act.

These types of tragedies have unfortunately continued to happen in my lifetime and while society has to deal with the ramifications and will debate over what could have been done to prevent this, we often forget about the real impact of these shootings. There are now 26 people who are no longer with us. Twenty-six families will no longer be able to hug their loved one and even ask them something as simple as “How was school?” or “How was your day?” Those families will have to live with this loss due to one person’s unconscionable act.

Throughout my school days, we had the typical fire drills and would occasionally practice a lockdown situation but personally, I never felt as though I could be in danger while I was in class. It was never a real thought. It’s scary to think that something like this could happen at all much less that it could happen here in Athens County or happen in a school that my daughter may attend someday.

Newton, Conn. has a population of about 28,000 people. Athens — when the college students are here — holds steady at around 24,000. This isn’t an urban issue. It’s a societal one.

To their credit, I know that each school does have its policies and procedures in place to deal with emergency situations and the local law enforcement agencies are ready at the drop of a hat to respond. However, tragedies like those don’t happen because people aren’t prepared; All it takes is the actions of one disturbed person and it happens.

I take away from this a feeling of sympathy for the families of those victims in Connecticut and an immense sadness that this sort of act even happens at all. At the same time, I look at this as a reminder to cherish life at every turn. Tonight, I’ll be sure to tell my wife — a school teacher — that I love her and I’ll say the same to my daughter. And as the holiday season approaches, I encourage all of you to show your appreciation for you loved ones as well and never take life for granted.

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