One by one young families sat down for a bite to eat. The same table. The same smiles on their faces. They were having lunch with their children. They were enjoying conversations. They were appreciating a day off from school as they never have before.
As I sat in a Panera in Newtown, Connecticut working and writing one group after another found that same out of the way back of the restaurant booth. One mother talked to her elementary school age son and daughter wondering whether school would resume tomorrow or Wednesday. She sounded cheery as she told them what a great opportunity another day off would bring. A chance to bake cookies, have friends over or cuddle on the couch and watch a movie.
A mother and father later came to the same booth with their pre-school little girl tightly grasping her Teddy Bear. We have seen so many Teddy Bears here in Newtown. The golden locks of the little girl bounced as she hiked herself into the booth. She chatted and asked questions incessantly. Her mother patiently answered every question.
As they dined on toasted cheese sandwiches and boxes of milk one Panera staff member entered through the door at the start of her shift. On the back of her familiar Panera polo shirt she added an artistic tribute. She had painted "Sandy Hook" with a heart.
Police officers stood sentry at school buildings outside of Newtown today. An attempt at reassurance that nothing would happen again as it did on Friday. How could that ever happen again? God willing it won't.
We've heard so many times parents on Friday and over the weekend parents would hug their children closer now. Today there are signs that those who have been spared the worst of the grief are believing that holding them close is not the only answer. It's treasuring every moment, living life and allowing children to live free from fear.