EDITORIAL: Light amidst the darkest days

Darkness enveloped the world, this nation, Connecticut and our neighbors in Newtown during the past week, with the inexplicable and senseless slaughter of 20 innocent children and six adults charged with their care in school, a place that should be a haven for them.

This of all days was not a time for tragedy. It was Hanukah. Christmas was just days away. Yet on a sunny late fall day, with so much joy so close at hand, evil visited, as Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said. Lives were changed in Newtown, in Connecticut, in this nation and in the world.

Suddenly the holidays seemed an intangible concept. What was there to anticipate? What was there to celebrate? How can we ever find our way out of such crippling darkness as the inexplicable act of murdering defenseless children in their classroom, and mowing down the caring adults there to protect them.

But even as that darkness closed in on them, shining lights such as Dawn Hochsprung and Mary Sherlach tried to stop the danger, confronting it in its path.

As the storm exploded around them, bright flames of hope and heroism such as Vicki Soto put themselves between the cold darkness surging into Sandy Hook Elementary School. Children lived because of her angelic actions.

As 20 innocent lambs were murdered for reasons no one will ever understand, teachers in classes nearby gave other students a beacon of hope, reassuring them that the "good guys" were on the way. They were, and those "good guys" again shone through the terror, leading hundreds of innocent students out of the valley of death, some further protecting the innocence of youth by telling them to shield their eyes from the horror.

Friday wore on, and more light was cast on the carnage left by inhuman acts, tears flowed freely from some who never cry. Why did this happen? Why to children? Why at the holidays? Why here?

This darkness, it felt, would never be lifted. It could never be lifted.

As the world gathered in Newtown Sunday night to show its support for the bereaved, and salute those beacons who shone through the blackness, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy spoke of the approaching winter solstice, the longest night of the year.

"In the coming days we will officially enter the winter, and that is always to be followed by the spring," Malloy said.

When that spring is as far away as it will ever be, Jews remember the miracle of a day's worth of oil lasting eight days and nights, proving a source of strength. When winter is at its darkest, Christians mark the birth of a Christ child who entered a world ensnared in evil and delivered hope.

"We will go on," Malloy said. "We will find strength. Faith is a gift."

All faiths came together Sunday night to mourn those gone too soon, to support those from whom those children have been torn. As a representative of the Islamic center said, the artificial barriers of different denominations were removed.

"All religions start with one basic question," President Barack Obama said. "Why are we here?"

All religions, at this time of year when darkness dominates the world, look for  light that leads the way to hope.

The light is there. Find it in the first responders who raced into the halls of terror to save the innocent. It's in those who so loved the children in their care that they gave their own lives to try to protect them. Find in the shining example set by the town of Newtown of a community coming together in times of tragedy. It's in those from around the world, of all colors, races and creeds, who forgot the artificial barriers and illuminated candles, made signs and donated toys for those children who were gone too soon, and for those left behind who simply wonder now who will play with them.

It is up to us now to carry on the torch first borne by Dawn Hochsprung, Mary Sherlach, Victoria Soto, Rachel Davino, Anne Marie, Murphy and Lauren Rousseau.

We must keep alive the flames of hope snuffed too early, embodied by Charlotte Bacon, Daniel Barden, Olivia Engel, Josephine Gay, Ana M. Marquez-Greene, Dylan Hockley, Madeline F. Hsu, Catherine V. Hubbard, Chase Kowalski, Jesse Lewis, James Mattioli, Grace McDonnell, Emilie Parker, Jack Pinto, Noah Pozner, Jessica Rekos, Caroline Previdi, Avielle Richman, Bejamin Wheeler and Alison Wyatt.

We must help those who feel the loss of their love in ways we cannot imagine find their way out of the depths of darkness. We must be the lamp that keeps burning, the star that leads the way to a new birth of hope.