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Laura Kessel is managing editor of The News-Herald in Willoughby. She writes a weekly column and shares her thoughts here.

Friday, December 28, 2012

As memorials come down, remember to 'never forget'

Too much. For far too long.

In two towns, they’re saying enough.

In one, it took 10 months. In the other, it wasn’t even two weeks.

But, when you consider the scale, it really does make sense.

Let me explain.

On Wednesday, officials in Chardon and Newtown, Conn., asked for an end to the memorials dedicated to the victims of school shootings that occurred in 2012.

I feel like I’m insulting you to remind you that both were deadly. Three young men died in Chardon, while 26 died at Sandy Hook School in Sandy Hook, Conn.

Don’t read that their requests wrong way: They’re not asking you to forget.

No, rather, they’re announcing plans for memorials to those who died and their hope to include some of the items from the temporary memorials.

The memorial in Sandy Hook, according to a story in The News Times in Danbury, Conn., will use everything that’s been left behind in memory of those slain at the elementary school.

“The city plans to compost biodegradable materials left at the memorials and lease equipment to grind items, such as those made of metal and wood, and mix them into a cement slurry for a permanent memorial. Volunteers may be needed to help sort and possibly tear apart certain items,” according to the story on

I’ll admit I’d been wondering how long they could leave that stuff out there.

It rained consistently in the days following the shooting, and it’s now snowed a couple times. Even though I don’t like to think about it, I shudder to think about how bad it smells near those materials, with mold undoubtedly building on the countless stuffed animals and toys left behind in memory of those 20 youngsters who died in the school.

In a story I read over the weekend, someone from Newtown said they’ve received more than 60,000 teddy bears since the shooting. That’s more than the number of people who live in Sandy Hook and Newtown.

I saw the story after I’d purchased six bears to donate to a collection being conducted nearby. I figure I’ll just hold on to them until someone around here is asking for teddy bears.

In Chardon, city officials asked residents to remove the red ribbons they’ve left behind in public places over the past 10 months since a gunman opened fire in the cafeteria in Chardon High School.

Suspect T.J. Lane is due to go on trial Jan. 14 in Geauga County Common Pleas Court. He’s pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.

The City of Chardon and the school district, too, are planning a permanent memorial.

“To continue the healing process for the community, it has been decided to remove the ribbons on public property and to use the ribbons to construct a more permanent item of remembrance for presentation to the families of the victims,” according to a news release.

The release said ribbons can be brought to the city’s Municipal Center on Water Street.
It’s important to say again that neither town is asking you to forget or to move on.

On the contrary, it’s important to remember what happened in both of these places.

The people who were lost deserve to be remembered. They deserve to be honored.

Most were young people who still had a lifetime of memories to make and successes to achieve.

That doesn’t make their lives any less important than the teachers who died along with them in Sandy Hook.

In fact, many of us have focused on their loss, because of so much lost potential. Who knows what they could have become, what they could have done had they been allowed to live their lives.

When I first heard the Chardon request, I grew irritated.

Who were they to tell those who tied those ribbons that it was time for them to come down? I looked over at the poster of a black ribbon with the big red C in the middle that I hung on my door a couple days after the Chardon shooting, intended to do what so many of us pledge when tragedy strikes.

Never forget.

Each time I look at the ribbon, I remember different aspects of that event.

The young victims. The families who spoke at a news conference at Classic Park a few days afterward. The Chardon community left reeling by the heinous act of violence in a school. The Chardon students forced to return to class in that building after a week off.

But then I realized that, as with those in Sandy Hook and Newtown, these memorials won’t be tossed out like yesterday’s trash.

No, they’ll be used in a planned memorial to those lost.

Somehow, that makes it a whole lot better.

For now, I’ll leave my ribbon in place on my door.

If nothing else, it’s a reminder of the recovery that one day will come for those in Sandy Hook. One day, it’ll be OK to look forward without fear of forgetting the past.

Until then, let’s remember those words we turn to in times of sadness and loss.

Never forget.
Twitter: @Lauranh


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