I don't live in Newtown, CT. My children don't attend Sandy Hook Elementary School. But I do live in Connecticut, and I do have two children, and even though I don't feel like I have the right to be affected by that particular town's incomprehensibly tragic events -- I didn't lose anyone personally, though I know people who did -- as a mother and a human being, I'm still shaken to the core. So I can only imagine how someone like Ben Federman feels. 20-year-old Ben Federman, currently a junior at Vanderbilt University, grew up in Newtown. He was the president of Newtown High School’s graduating class of 2010 -- Adam Lanza's class. Now a rapper and producer (he's been recording music since junior high), Federman calls the moment he heard the news "one of the most surreal moments" of his life.
"The morning after I had just returned home from final exams at Vanderbilt I woke up to a text from my mom telling me to turn on the news," he remembers.
"I couldn't leave the TV the entire day ... even without knowing any of the victims personally, our community is so small that every single one of us feels as if we lost one of our own."
Federman knew he had to do something. That "something" turned out to be the music video "Playground: A Sandy Hook Tribute."
"I decided to write 'Playground' when, over the days following the shooting, I was inundated with thoughts and questions," he says. "I wanted to use my music in order to express the combination of pain, frustration, and love that struck those in my town, as well as to keep the memories of the victims alive."
'Playground' does exactly what Federman intended, perfectly expressing pain, frustration, and love, as well as agonizing disbelief: In his rap, he asks how and why the "kid from his math class" could be capable of such a horrible act. But most striking of all, at least to me, is how Federman and his former classmates remember Adam Lanza -- or how they choose to remember Adam Lanza:
"Most of the people in my grade don't remember much about Adam considering he kept to himself. It's just really unsettling knowing that someone I used to pass in the hallway would be able to commit such an atrocity. One thing that I find remarkable is the lack of anger that those in my community feel toward him. Despite the evil actions he chose to carry out, people have done a great job devoting their energy to support one another rather than focusing on the shooter."
What else is there to say, really?
Federman says it all all in this song:
What comes through most of all is the love, right? The love Federman has for those children. The love we all have for those children, and for each other.
What are your thoughts on Playground: A Sandy Hook Tribute?
Image via Ben Federman/YouTube