Skip to main content

Newtown survivors, choose faith, charity and hope

By Liz Carlston, Special to CNN
updated 9:28 AM EST, Sun December 30, 2012
Mourners wipe tears away as they file out of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints after the funeral of Emilie Parker in Ogden, Utah, on Saturday, December 22. Mourners wipe tears away as they file out of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints after the funeral of Emilie Parker in Ogden, Utah, on Saturday, December 22.
HIDE CAPTION
Newtown funerals: Community says goodbye
Newtown funerals: Community says goodbye
Newtown funerals: Community says goodbye
Newtown funerals: Community says goodbye
Newtown funerals: Community says goodbye
Newtown funerals: Community says goodbye
Newtown funerals: Community says goodbye
Newtown funerals: Community says goodbye
Newtown funerals: Community says goodbye
Newtown funerals: Community says goodbye
Newtown funerals: Community says goodbye
Newtown funerals: Community says goodbye
Newtown funerals: Community says goodbye
Newtown funerals: Community says goodbye
Newtown funerals: Community says goodbye
Newtown funerals: Community says goodbye
Newtown funerals: Community says goodbye
Newtown funerals: Community says goodbye
Newtown funerals: Community says goodbye
Newtown funerals: Community says goodbye
Newtown funerals: Community says goodbye
Newtown funerals: Community says goodbye
Newtown funerals: Community says goodbye
Newtown funerals: Community says goodbye
Newtown funerals: Community says goodbye
Newtown funerals: Community says goodbye
Newtown funerals: Community says goodbye
Newtown funerals: Community says goodbye
Newtown funerals: Community says goodbye
Newtown funerals: Community says goodbye
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
29
30
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Liz Carlston: My heart aches for the children and parents at Sandy Hook
  • Carlston: I went through the Columbine shooting and know the pain
  • She says life won't be the same for the survivors; it's important to push out the anger
  • Carlston: Choose faith, choose charity, choose hope; then, life will be livable again

Editor's note: Liz Carlston is the author of "Surviving Columbine: How Faith Helps Us Heal When Tragedy Strikes." She is compiling a book with other Columbine survivors for the students at Sandy Hook Elementary School. If you'd like to help with the project, you can contact her at: carlston33@yahoo.com.

(CNN) -- My heart aches for the children, parents and teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Like them, I know what it means to have life turned on its head by unprecedented violence. On the morning of April 20, 1999, two senior students walked into Columbine High School and began a shooting spree. Someone pulled the fire alarm and I was able to escape my trigonometry classroom. While I didn't suffer any injury, people I knew and admired were killed. That awful day left a permanent scar on our community in Littleton, Colorado.

But the Columbine shooting did not define us. We are defined by the acts of goodness that followed. People in our community bonded and helped each other get through the tragedy.

Liz Carlston
Liz Carlston

Hundreds of comfort quilts were sewed and handed out to those who were trying to recover from the anguish and pain. Restaurants provided free meals in the days after the shooting. Strangers offered hugs to each other at the Clement Park Memorial for support.

Become a fan of CNNOpinion
Stay up to date on the latest opinion, analysis and conversations through social media. Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion and follow us @CNNOpinion on Twitter. We welcome your ideas and comments.



No one ever should experience a Columbine moment. No one wants to feel assaulted, offended or hurt by an inexplicable event. But sometimes, those things happen.

The way we respond to those moments is crucial in how we build and rebuild our relationships, and more importantly, how we rebuild our lives.

'We should talk about our children'
One week later: 'Newtown is rallying'
Showing Newtown they're not alone

There are two ways we can respond to a traumatic experience -- as a victim or a survivor. Early on, I pitifully used Columbine to justify personal failures and shortcomings. Eventually, I realized that I owned the way I reacted to situations and how I engaged with those around me.

More than a decade later, I still think about Columbine. I do not dwell on the grotesque details of the day. In quiet meditation, I think of the lives that were taken and the lessons that help me move forward. I appreciate the subtle and profound consequences that our thoughts and actions can have on others. I became slower to anger and quicker to love. The inconsiderate driver or long line at the post office doesn't spoil my day anymore.

I share my story to offer hope to those impacted by violence -- those who wonder whether they'll be able to regain the life they once knew. The answer is no. Life won't be the same. But one can, over time, find happiness. When you are able to come out of a tragedy you'll be stronger with a greater capacity to love, more determination to serve others and desire to mend broken family ties. And you'll feel joy that comes from these actions.

To those who are wading through a mountain of pain and sorrow right now, please know that it will be OK. Take time to grieve your loss. Talk through your feelings, even if it's no more than ramblings. Live your life in a way that honors the memory of the precious lives that were taken. Push out the anger and fill your mind with a positive outlook. I promise this approach will bring more peace and joy.

There may be some people who are angry at God. I was not. In Columbine's aftermath, my faith was an essential part of my healing process. There's a scripture passage that I take comfort in:

Ye cannot behold with your natural eyes, the design of your God concerning those things which shall follow after much tribulation. For after much tribulation come the blessings.

I believe in God and trust that He has a plan for our lives. His added measure of strength always comes at the moment when we've exhausted our best effort. When tragedies like Columbine or Sandy Hook happen, we are reminded of the fragility and precious nature of life. This gives rise to the question, what will you do with the time you have?

Choose faith, choose charity, choose hope. Then, life will be livable again.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Liz Carlston.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 1:33 AM EST, Thu December 25, 2014
Danny Cevallos says the legislature didn't have to get involved in regulating how people greet each other
updated 6:12 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Marc Harrold suggests a way to move forward after the deaths of NYPD officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos.
updated 8:36 AM EST, Wed December 24, 2014
Simon Moya-Smith says Mah-hi-vist Goodblanket, who was killed by law enforcement officers, deserves justice.
updated 2:14 PM EST, Wed December 24, 2014
Val Lauder says that for 1,700 years, people have been debating when, and how, to celebrate Christmas
updated 3:27 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Raphael Sperry says architects should change their ethics code to ban involvement in designing torture chambers
updated 10:35 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Paul Callan says Sony is right to call for blocking the tweeting of private emails stolen by hackers
updated 7:57 AM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
As Christmas arrives, eyes turn naturally toward Bethlehem. But have we got our history of Christmas right? Jay Parini explores.
updated 11:29 PM EST, Mon December 22, 2014
The late Joe Cocker somehow found himself among the rock 'n' roll aristocracy who showed up in Woodstock to help administer a collective blessing upon a generation.
updated 4:15 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
History may not judge Obama kindly on Syria or even Iraq. But for a lame duck president, he seems to have quacking left to do, says Aaron Miller.
updated 1:11 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Terrorism and WMD -- it's easy to understand why these consistently make the headlines. But small arms can be devastating too, says Rachel Stohl.
updated 1:08 PM EST, Mon December 22, 2014
Ever since "Bridge-gate" threatened to derail Chris Christie's chances for 2016, Jeb Bush has been hinting he might run. Julian Zelizer looks at why he could win.
updated 1:53 PM EST, Sat December 20, 2014
New York's decision to ban hydraulic fracturing was more about politics than good environmental policy, argues Jeremy Carl.
updated 3:19 PM EST, Sat December 20, 2014
On perhaps this year's most compelling drama, the credits have yet to roll. But we still need to learn some cyber lessons to protect America, suggest John McCain.
updated 5:39 PM EST, Mon December 22, 2014
Conservatives know easing the trade embargo with Cuba is good for America. They should just admit it, says Fareed Zakaria.
updated 8:12 PM EST, Fri December 19, 2014
We're a world away from Pakistan in geography, but not in sentiment, writes Donna Brazile.
updated 12:09 PM EST, Fri December 19, 2014
How about a world where we have murderers but no murders? The police still chase down criminals who commit murder, we have trials and justice is handed out...but no one dies.
updated 6:45 PM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
The U.S. must respond to North Korea's alleged hacking of Sony, says Christian Whiton. Failing to do so will only embolden it.
updated 4:34 PM EST, Fri December 19, 2014
President Obama has been flexing his executive muscles lately despite Democrat's losses, writes Gloria Borger
updated 2:51 PM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
Jeff Yang says the film industry's surrender will have lasting implications.
updated 4:13 PM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
Newt Gingrich: No one should underestimate the historic importance of the collapse of American defenses in the Sony Pictures attack.
updated 7:55 AM EST, Wed December 10, 2014
Dean Obeidallah asks how the genuine Stephen Colbert will do, compared to "Stephen Colbert"
updated 12:34 PM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
Some GOP politicians want drug tests for welfare recipients; Eric Liu says bailed-out execs should get equal treatment
updated 8:42 AM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
Louis Perez: Obama introduced a long-absent element of lucidity into U.S. policy on Cuba.
updated 12:40 PM EST, Tue December 16, 2014
The slaughter of more than 130 children by the Pakistani Taliban may prove as pivotal to Pakistan's security policy as the 9/11 attacks were for the U.S., says Peter Bergen.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT