I don’t know much about Columbine, Col, or Aurora, Col., or Oak Creek, Wisc., or Tuscon, Ariz., or even the Virginia Tech community. All I know about these places are the images and the numbers: the 12 students in that high school, the 12 people in the movie theater, the six members of the Sikh temple in their place of worship, the six constituents and their miraculously recovered congresswoman in a Safeway parking lot and the 32 college students on their beloved campus. I saw the images of horror, of panic from mothers, fathers, friends and loved ones. I saw the pictures of the vigils and the intensified police and media responses. I heard the extended news stories from CNN and Fox. And when I hear the names of these communities, that is what I see. I see these tragedies and I think of the victims.

But I know Newtown, Conn. It’s my home. It’s where I grew up and attended elementary and middle school. It’s where I’ll be going home to by the end of the week. And I know that it’s more than this tragedy. It’s more than the images you’re going to see on TV and on the front page of The Washington Post or The New York Times. Newtown is more than the aerial views of Sandy Hook Elementary School you’ll continue to see. It’s more than the SWAT teams that lined our streets on Friday. It’s more than what Brian Williams will tell you on NBC Nightly News. Newtown is more than the ultra-politicized and sensationalized news stories you’ll continue to hear.

Newtown is a place where Fr. Bob would surprise every class in my grade school with a trip across the street to The Ice Cream Shop. It’s a place where Eunice from Bagel Man would tell you not to worry about that last 50 cents or dollar you were missing on your order of bagels. It’s a place where the Paproski family would spend months designing and creating a gigantic corn maze at their family’s farm so that, every fall, children could come and get lost for hours with their friends. Newtown is a place where, every Halloween, the historic homes on Main Street decorate their porches with cob webs and scarecrows for the trick-or-treaters. Newtown is a place where, every summer, St. Rose of Lima Parish pulls together an entire community effort to host the Summer Carnival in the parking lot and field. And Newtown is a place where our parents, teachers, priests, ministers and rabbis love our children so passionately that there would be no keeping them from the sidelines of our soccer or lacrosse games or from being our volunteer coaches or field trip leaders.

If I could meet anyone from Columbine, Aurora, Oak Creek, Tuscon or Virginia Tech, I’d ask them about their communities. I’d want to hear stories like this. I’d want to know what they love most about home. Because we are more than this.

It saddens me so deeply to know that my family, my best friends from grade school and my whole community are not the only ones who know this grief. Within the past 10 years, we’ve watched as this epidemic of violence has spread through our country. We’ve watched as young kids of my own generation have become subjected to a culture where plastic guns are acceptable toys and you only win video games if you’ve killed enough of “the enemy.” And we’ve watched as mental and social disorders have left people so isolated they are essentially alone.

The problem is deep. It’s cultural, it’s social and it will take generations to fix. But the change needs to start right now. And while beginning this change will make our schools, malls, temples and movie theaters safer places for my generation’s, or the next generation’s, children to be, it will not save the town that this may happen in tomorrow, or next week, or next month. We need to take action right now. Our “right to bear arms” was something given to us by a generation who fought revolutions in their backyards. We don’t have that war anymore. We have a different kind of war now, a war where arming ourselves will only spread the fear and the violence. It hurts me to know that these pleas and demands for change get slowed down by lobbyists, politics and legislation because this isn’t about what party is dominant in the House or Senate: This is about our lives and our children’s lives. To me, there is an easy solution in front of us. We take away the violence and we take away the guns. But Washington won’t hear these pleas until we can all put our politics — or who we voted for in November — aside and realize that, every day, we are losing children, mothers and fathers. We are losing our communities.

When you hear “Newtown, Connecticut,” please do think of those 20 children and seven adults who lost their lives on Friday. Please do remember the images you saw on the news and the pictures of grief that spread across the country. Don’t forget about what happened on Friday. But please, also remember that Newtown is a home that will not stop growing.

Meagan Kelly is a senior in the College. She is a former photo editor for The Hoya.

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