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Open Letter to a Sandy Hook Parent

Neil, don’t stop, because your voice rings loud and clear while those who try to shout you down are shrill and weak. I am proud to stand next to you.

Dear Neil, 

Let me begin by offering my condolence over the tragic loss of your six-year-old-son Jesse at the Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown, CT on December 14, 2012. Losing a young child to senseless violence is a devastating experience that defeats many parents as it strengthens others. Unfortunately, you have joined the club that nobody wants to belong to, yet nobody can leave once they have gained entrance. 

I compare losing a child to having a child. If you haven’t had the experience, you don’t understand the depth of emotion or the cosmic bonding involved, because there is nothing to compare it to. Not the loss of a parent, or the death of a puppy. We create our children, we mold them, nurture them and invest our lives in them. Nothing on this earth equates the loss of a child. 

It’s a cold hard fact that just as our children gave meaning to their lives; it is up to us, their parents to give meaning to their death. There are numerous ways large and small to pursue this task. This morning I learned that yesterday you were heckled by so called pro-gun activists as you gave testimony at a hearing before the Gun Violence hearing at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford, CT. Just as you are giving meaning to Jesse’s death they are demeaning his life. 

I become apoplectic whenever victims are dismissed or demeaned over a so called higher principle. It is the anger that fueled my quest in the aftermath of the loss of my daughter Polly in 1993. Like you, I bared my soul, embraced the hole in my heart, and endured the taunts of hecklers. I too, proudly carried the picture of my slain child so that nobody would mistake my meaning or purpose. You will not allow them to deter you or defeat you because you are demonstrating the strength of your character as your adversaries are exposing the limitations of their narrow mindedness. 

Standing next to President Clinton when he signed the original assault weapons ban in 1994 was one of the proudest and saddest moments of my life. I finally realized that there was meaning in death, but that the cost of victory was unacceptable. The death of our children should never prompt change. Instead, the hopes and aspirations that we have for our children’s future should inspire safe schools and safe streets. Unfortunately, the loss of little Jesse and his friends and classmates proves yet again that we are a reactive and not a pro-active society. Let us now hope that your loss and the loss of the other parents in Newtown will finally limit the ability of out of control individuals to wreak mass murder on innocent children and those who care for them.

As the father of a child kidnapped and murdered by a crazed lunatic, I understand the need to do whatever is necessary to protect America’s children by limiting our ability to inflict violence. Neil, don’t stop, because your voice rings loud and clear while those who try to shout you down are shrill and weak. I am proud to stand next to you in your quest to end the madness that holds us all in the grip of fear.

Sincerely,

Marc Klaas

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