By Benji Satloff
Last Sunday night, I was settled in the couch watching the “game of the year” between the Patriots and the Forty-Niners. Suddenly, the telecast was interrupted and President Obama appeared on the screen, with a ‘Live from Newtown’ sign in the upper corner. What had been a vibrant, exciting feeling turned dark and dismal.
This was two days after the horrific shootings in Connecticut and the country was grieving. When I found out about what happened at Sandy Hook Elementary School, I was shocked, but I didn’t really comprehend the magnitude of the tragedy. When I came home from school, my dad sat my 12-year old brother and me down and talked to us about the killings. I wanted to know more, so I went on Yahoo and found a list of all the names of the people that had died. Normally when I see fatality lists in the newspaper, there’s usually a “staff sergeant” or “corporal” in front of the name of the person killed; after the name, there is a number 17 or higher. When I looked at the fatality list from Connecticut, I saw no military titles and the ages were 6- and 7- year olds. Maybe I had to see the plain black and white writing on the computer screen for me to fully recognize the true tragedy of the event.
Once this started to sink in, I also began to develop another feeling, one that sort of freaked me out. I follow BBC and CNN on Twitter and I regularly get updates about world news, including a lot of things going on the Middle East. I’ve gotten many updates saying “School bus bombed in Syria” or “Middle school attacked by rockets in Israel” and, for a while, I stopped paying much attention to them. I guess I take it as a given that terrible stuff happens in the Middle East, so it shouldn’t be a cause for alarm. But after seeing so many of those updates, I began to focus on the kids. A victim’s name might be Osher Twito –a nine-year old who lost both his legs when a Hamas rocket exploded next to him – and I felt for him, as I have begun to feel for all the kids hurt and dying from terrible attacks everywhere in the world. It didn’t really matter if they came from half a world away – a life is a life no matter what the situation.
So, against this backdrop, I scrolled down the list of Newtown victims. It was one kid after another. I felt horrible. Then, the name “Noah Pozner” stood out. His name sounded the most Jewish in the class. It sounded like a kid who might have been in Hebrew school with my youngest brother David, who is five years old. The enormity of the tragedy finally hit me.
What if I came home one day and my mom told me that, God forbid, David’s class had been attacked. I wouldn’t even know how to react. The Newtown kids were mostly just a year older than David, and at least one of them probably had an older sibling that’s around fifteen. Seeing these kids’ ages so close to my brother’s made me envision the horror if he had been among those gunned down and what I would be doing now if he had.
Since the attack, everyone has focused on what the parents of these kids must be feeling, which is natural because a parent should never have to go through the grief of losing a child that young. But what about the siblings of these kids?
Not a day goes by that I don’t come home from school and wrestle, play soccer, read books, or have a snack with David. I truly don’t know what I would do without him. I love everyone in my family but he is my favorite person in the world. A world without him would be a world filled with long, never-ending afternoons of homework and dreariness. It is sad that it took Newtown to for me to realize how much I love my brother, but I know I would do anything for him. The idea of him going off to school in the morning and not coming back is too depressing for me to even think about.
On Sunday night, during the football game, President Obama talked about the courage of the teachers and the school staff and the sympathy he and the rest of the country shared for the town, but one thing he said really resonated with me and, I admit, almost made be cry. He said, “And one child told his teacher, ’I know karate, I’ll fight the bad guy away.’” That a little kid could be so brave and fearless made me proud to be an older brother. I hope that boy has an older brother or sister, because I am sure they love him just as much as I love my little brother, David.
Benji Satloff, 15, is a sophomore at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School outside Washington DC.