A few days after 6-year-old Noah Pozner was gunned down at Newtown’s Sandy Hook School, his mother, Veronique, gave an interview of searing clarity.
Journalist Naomi Zeveloff, in a column for The Jewish Daily Forward, described the hardest part of her interview with Pozner. I don’t often provide lengthy excerpts, but this defies paraphrasing:
“(Veronique) felt that (Noah’s) body had suffered too many indignities already; she was adamant that he not be autopsied. She wanted him to be buried with a Jewish prayer shawl and with a clear stone with a white angel inside — an ‘angel stone’ — in each of his hands. Veronique was only able to put the stone in his right hand because the left was ‘not altogether there.’ … She asked the funeral director to put the other one in the left hand spot. ‘I made him promise and he did.’
“Veronique told me that Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy visited her in the funeral home, and she brought him to see Noah’s open casket. I asked her why it was important for her and for the governor to see Noah’s body. ‘I needed it to have a face for him,’ she said. ‘If there is ever a piece of legislation that comes across his desk, I needed it to be real for him.'”
Zeveloff pressed Veronique Pozner on why she felt the need to see her son’s body. “It is not up to me to say I am only going to look at you and deal with you when you are alive, that I am going to block out the reality of what you look like when you are dead,” she told Zeveloff. “And as a little boy, you have to go in the ground. If I am going to shut my eyes to that I am not his mother. I had to bear it. I had to do it.”
Unprompted, Pozner continued: “We all saw how beautiful he was. He had thick, shiny hair, beautiful long eyelashes that rested on his cheeks. He looked like he was sleeping. But the reality of it was under the cloth he had covering his mouth. … His jaw was blown away. I just want people to know the ugliness of it so we don’t talk about it abstractly, like these little angels just went to heaven. No. They were butchered. They were brutalized. And that is what haunts me at night.”
Nineteen other young children were killed with Noah, who was shot at close range 11 times. We know little about the aftermath. Reporters are reluctant to ask, and most parents don’t have it in them to share the devastating details.
We should be grateful to Veronique Pozner for laying her grief raw. She is brave to shake us loose from our platitudes about “angels” and a “better place.” I say this as a woman of faith. Such sentiments, I fear, distance us from the earthly reality of gun violence. We need to feel the monster breathing down our necks. We need to figure out how to bring him down.