The memorial moments shared by Mountain Pointe High School students on Tuesday, Dec. 18 are irreplaceable. Standing next to a best friend and a stranger, surrounded by people you see, hear, walk, talk, and live with everyday, you could feel the tinge in the air.

Humility. Deep respect. Love. Kinship.

I was standing next to a guy I have never even seen before, holding his hand, connecting to the kids around me that I pass in the hall everyday without a second glance. I was looking across at the pillar of strength, the true Pride leader; our principal. I was thinking about how those kids will never get a chance to be as old as I am, here in this moment. And how those parents lost the thing they loved the very most.

The memorial was beautifully done. Not over the top, not excessive. The tears that were shed were genuine, and the words spoken, heartfelt. There was a respect. Respect for the human beings standing next to you sharing the moment, for the leader’s and teacher’s kind, yet powerful words, and for the beautiful little children and the heroic adults that lost their lives in a tragedy that is bringing America together.

When faced with strife and injustice and cruelty, people ask why. Why did that have to happen? Why those innocent beings? No one can answer those questions, but they can find support and comfort and relief in the embrace of those around them. One question posed is, “When might an event like this occur again?” and Mountain Pointe can answer that with one word: Never. Never will a tragedy like this take place in our school, our home, our community. We will not allow it. As Principal Bruce Kipper said, “It all starts with me.” Each and every student of this school, and member of this community, can look inside themselves and make an effort to treat others with respect and dignity, and that alone is enough to lower the possibilities of such a disaster happening in our neighborhood. Inviting someone over who is sitting alone, complementing a sweater or a smile, paying for someone’s Starbucks because they lost their credit card, even though they cut you in line. It’s the little things that can make the greatest difference, and it’s the positive attitude exuded to all, and treating everyone with a basic human respect that will take us the farthest.

One particularly worrisome result of the incident was people’s reactions to the killer. Yes, he was a troubled man who took innocent lives in a sick and twisted act of cruelty. But feeling hatred towards him and wanting him to burn in hell does not make you any better of a person. Hatred was the disease that resulted in this hideous massacre, and while it is certainly understandable to wish not only the same amount of pain, but more, on the man responsible, that does nothing in moving this country in the right direction Love and respect is what is needed for the people now who must carry on with their shattered lives.

So channel your empathy and admiration, your sorrow and confusion, into something inspiring and productive. Don’t let another day go by in mediocrity and then regret your passiveness in the wake of tragedy. Our community is too strong and too special to everyone in it to see something like the Sandy Hook events take place here, and it would be a sad, sad day if it did. Take action now by being the most compassionate and tolerant person you can be to everyone you meet, and together, as a community, a state, and a country, we can move towards brighter days.

• Kate Hartland is a senior at Mountain Pointe High School in Ahwatukee and co-editor in chief of the school’s online newspaper.

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