Emilie's lesson

It can be easy to become discouraged about all the partisanship, cynicism and self-interest that surround our policy debates. Meanwhile, news outlets give never-ending attention to the world's madness, its violence, the capriciousness of fate. All of us are vulnerable to be in the wrong place, wrong time.

Then along comes events that remind us of the inherent goodness of most people. Occasions that show individuals can set aside differences in favor of a common goal. Moments that instruct us that the horrors and arguments spit forth by the 24-hour news cycle are the exception, the common decency of people the norm.

Such an event was the construction and dedication at Riverside Park in New London of Emilie's Shady Spot playground, built as a living memorial to Emilie Parker, one of the 20 first-graders killed along with six adult educators during the attack on Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown on Dec. 14, 2012.

It is the 14th playground that the New Jersey Firefighters Benevolent Association has completed with local help since it began its Sandy Ground Project: Where Angels Play. Eventually the association plans to build 26 playgrounds to memorialize all the victims of that terrible day. Communities selected for the playgrounds agree to raise money for playgrounds in other communities.

Planners design and locate the play areas to reflect the personality of the child or educator honored. In Emilie's case designers selected the shady locale of Riverside Park, because Emilie sought the shade when playing outside. Its scheme of pink, blue and black reflect the color combinations she liked.

The horror of that December day was not the last word. A confused, mentally ill and angry young man destroyed lives, and then took his own, but he could not destroy memories. The hate manifested that day did not prevail. On this and the other playgrounds, children, innocent and blithely unaware, will have fun in the ways only children can. Their parents will be reminded not only of innocence cut short, but also of a spirit that lives on in the laughter of boys and girls.

"I hope that you all can feel that sweet spirit and be able to see it in the light of the children's eyes as they play," said Emilie's mom, Alissa Parker, speaking at Sunday's dedication.

"Stop focusing on yourself and start looking toward other people," added Emilie's dad, Robbie Parker. "It's charity which binds us together."

We can add no more.

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