Archives for posts with tag: Gun Violence

For high schools this time of year, most students are getting ready for prom, baseball, graduation and vacation. Like most high schools, students struggled with subjects that they were probably not going to use the rest of their lives. The lives of the students at Parkland’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High, near Ft. Lauderdale, were about to undergo a change and it was a change that was as welcome as mosquitoes on a summer day in the Sunshine State.

Their peace and quiet as they knew would be changed forever and not for good. A former student, Nikolas Cruz, who once walked among them, shot his way through the school, sending students and teachers into hiding for their safety in the hopes that they would not be the next target. At the end of the horror and chaos, 17 people died, 14 of them students, three of them teachers and several more would be injured. Cruz would eventually be arrested and charged with the 17 deaths as well as the assault on the school. As of this writing, he sits behind bars without any chance of bail.

As for those that were injured, some will eventually recover, while others have injuries that will cripple them for the rest of their lives. Cruz took their peace and quiet and disrupted their lives, destroying that peace and quiet forever. Cruz, who was expelled from the same school that he attacked, is the poster child for the NRA. Cruz, through his appointed public defender, offered to plead guilty and take life without parole for his actions as long as the death penalty was taken off the table. So far, the District Attorney of Broward County and the Attorney General of the state of Florida have not made any decision or comment on that.

In the days following the massacre, students around the country planned a national walkout on April 20, the 19th anniversary of the shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado that left 13 people dead.

Broward County Public Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie told NBC he was proud of the students and their response to the horrific incident. “They are intelligent, they’re articulate, they’re passionate, and they’re committed to securing a safe future for themselves. This is their moment, this is their generation and they’re stepping up and doing what needs to happen,” he said. “I feel so encouraged that this time it will be different.”

Before the Stoneman Douglas students march on Washington, they headed to Tallahassee and spoke to state leaders and it was  Jaclyn Corin, a student who organized the visit. Corbin told the Miami Herald and NBC News, “We are the ones that looked into Nikolas Cruz’s eyes. We took 17 bullets to the heart. We are the only ones who can speak up. We have to be the adults in this situation because clearly people have us failed us in the government, and we must make the change now because we’re the only ones who are going to.”

The students that went to Tallahassee to speak to their leaders saw that failure come to light as house Republicans on Tuesday decisively blocked a move by Democrats to debate a ban on assault weapons in Florida, six days after a massacre that took 17 lives at a Broward County high school.

The bill (HB 219), which would ban the sale and possession of semi-automatic weapons and high-capacity magazines like the kind used by Cruz, has been mired in a House subcommittee for months and has not been heard. Amid rising tensions at the state Capitol, Democrats used a highly unusual procedure to move the proposal directly to the House floor for a debate and vote.

Republicans voted it down, 71 to 36. Several survivors of the massacre in Parkland, watching from the visitors’ gallery, were overcome with emotion and the action set off a firestorm of controversy on social media. They were also overcome with anger and righteous indignation.

These kids saw 17 of their friends die and the Florida Legislature, who were supposed to be their ally, chose party over their constituents. They failed the people of the state of Florida by not allowing discussion on HB 219, which would have effectively banned that type of weaponry in the state of Florida. This was their chance to beat swords into plowshares and do it in front of a group of students that recently lost 14 of their classmates and 3 of their teachers.

Instead of listening to their better angels, they chose to listen to the gun zealots and the NRA. They became cowards, plain and simple and there is hope that when these kids get out of college, they become legislators and vote you all out. While some of them were not old enough to drive, let alone vote, they chose an action that is respectful and peaceful. They let the world know that enough is enough. Their actions drew attention to a problem that needed to be addressed and addressed quickly before more people die needlessly.

That day, the Florida Legislature told the future voters of the Sunshine State that they didn’t give a damn about them. This is cowardice. The bigger question is this. When is going to end, when their child is shot or killed? 14 of their peers are dead. They will NEVER graduate from high school, have a Spring break, go to prom or Homecoming. 3 teachers dead, they will never stand in front of a group of students. They are gone forever and short of the Resurrection, they will never come back. Their blood is on the hands of the leaders they hoped would listen to them and protect them.

This in no way is an attempt to punish the people that own guns, the one that go through the PROPER channels to get a weapon and learn how to use it properly. Instead, it’s a call to our elected leaders to listen to their better angels and pass legislation that makes sense and if that means a re-write of the 2nd Amendment, so be it.

Recently, teachers were allowed to return to the school to get their cars and students were allowed to retrieve their personal belongings. They went back to school on Wednesday and when Wednesday came, there will be 17 fewer people at school. There will be fear and nerves that will be frayed. Those 17 that lost their lives will never walk those halls again. Their voices will be missed.

The elected adults failed the students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High and in the midst of the chaos, tears and blood being shed and anger, it was the students that chose the better course of action, a course of action that Jesus, Ghandi and Martin Luther King would have approved. They took their anger and beat that anger into plowshares. They will further that action by registering to vote or voting in the upcoming midterm elections.

The students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School chose to do what was right and challenge their leaders to do was right, not what was popular.

It’s time for the adults to follow suit.

In a few days, children across America will make their visits to Santa and hand him their lists as to what they want for Christmas. Gifts will be exchanged, Christmas parties will take place all over the nation, milk and cookies will be left for the fat man in the red suit, snow will be on the ground and carols will be sung in neighborhoods nationwide.

There will be 26 fewer singers that will be with them. Five years ago today, while most of the nation was getting ready for school or that last second Christmas shopping, Hell was released upon a school in Connecticut. December 14 was education’s equivalent to Pearl Harbor. Today is the fifth anniversary of the Sandy Hook School shooting that killed 20 students and six adults that were there to protect them.

The FBI recently released records that showed that Adam Lanza planned the killings that December morning. The report, which is more than 1,500 pages long, shows evidence that Lanza planned the shootings and had an interst in chidlren as well as some proof of pedophilia but no proof that he acted on that pedophilia. The records show that Lanza, who would eventually take his own life when he was cornered by law enforcement, began planning the attack as early as March of 2011.

According to the Associated Press and the Hartford Courant, the FBI behavioral analysis unit wrote, “the shooter did not ‘snap’ but instead engaged in careful, methodical planning and preparation. The shooter was ascinated with past shootings and researched them thoroughly. The shooter shared many similar characteristics and behaviors with other active shooters.”

Lanza’s killing spree began that Friday morning when he killed his mother at their Newton, Connecticut home before moving on to Sandy Hook Elementary School.

The behavioral analysis unit document did not say what evidence there was that Lanza had a pedophilic interest in children. But another document says an unidentified woman told the FBI that Lanza said adult-child sexual relationships could be “possibly beneficial to both parties.”

The woman, who said she had an “online relationship” with Lanza for more than two years before the school shooting, said Lanza did acknowledge that adult-child sexual relationships could be “unhealthy” and did not express any personal sexual interest in children. She said Lanza believed he might be asexual. She also told the FBI that Lanza compiled a spreadsheet that meticulously documented hundreds of mass murders and spree killings but she didn’t believe he would carry out a mass killing and she said Lanza believed mass murders were a symptom of a broken society and may have believed he was “saving” children from the “harmful influences” of adults during the school shooting.

The documents offer a window into the early days of the investigation, as agents chased false leads and gathered evidence of Lanza’s isolation and include reports by FBI agents who interviewed people about Lanza. Portions of many of the documents were redacted, including the people’s names.

A year after the massacre, Connecticut state police released a final investigative document that concluded Lanza was obsessed with firearms, death and mass shootings but his motive may never be known. That report also mentioned pedophilia. In it, state investigators said they found on Lanza’s computer a file they described as “advocating pedophiles’ rights and the liberation of children.” They also said they found a screenplay describing a relationship between a 10-year-old boy and a 30-year-old man.

One person told an FBI agent that Lanza’s mother, Nancy Lanza, had become concerned about him a month before the shooting because he had become a “shut in” who hadn’t gone anywhere in three months. Adam Lanza shot his mother to death in their home before going to the school. The person also told the FBI agent Adam Lanza never accepted he had Asperger’s syndrome, a condition on the autism spectrum and never took medication he was prescribed.

A report by the Connecticut child advocate in 2014 concluded Lanza’s autism spectrum disorder and other psychiatric problems didn’t cause or lead directly to the massacre. The report said Nancy Lanza rejected psychologists’ recommendations her son be medicated and undergo rigorous treatment as a child for anxiety and other conditions. It said Adam Lanza, his parents and his educators contributed to his social isolation by not confronting his problems.

Another person told the FBI that Lanza essentially had become a “recluse” who played video games all day. The person said Lanza had no friends, was computer savvy and became very interested in firearms. Lanza also did not want pets in the family home and did not like to be touched when he was getting a haircut.

So we know more now about Adam Lanza than we did that December day. Given what we know now, Lanza was a troubled soul, short of being egotistical who didn’t care for anyone but himself. Lanza knew right from wrong and in the legal sense, that’s called “depraved indifference,” in which a person that commits a crime knows that it’s wrong but does it anyway.

26 people are no longer with us and the 20 children that he shot can’t come back to us and tell us what happened. The report is long and lenghty and while some of the information has been redacted for the sake of privacy, so not to cause further harm to those family members that lost a child that day. They’ve suffered enough. Granted, Adam Lanza is not with us to tell his side of the story or face justice, which could have happened had he not taken his own life. As for the house that the Lanza family lived in? It’s been torn down. There’s nothing there.


No creature will ever stir there.

Even the birds will shun the place.

Christmas will come. Gifts will be exchanged, Santa will make his rounds and children will have their lists. It’s a sure bet that Adam Lanza made the naughty list. That December morning, while some of us were getting ready to start our school days or finish that shopping, a madman came in and caused harm that will take years if not a millenium to heal. The flaws that Adam Lanza had were exposed for all the world to see and there are those that do not want his name uttered again ever. Adam Lanza tried to drag everyone into his own Hell and failed. There will be no roads named for him, no hospitals will have his name attached to their walls and don’t expect any Adam Lanza Elementary Schools in the distant future.

The window to Adam Lanza has been opened and while the view is not paradise by any means, it gives us a clearer picture as to what happened that day and why. Some of the questions have been answered by this report. Granted, there are 26 people that will never be heard from and that includes Lanza and his mother.

December 14 fell on a Thursday this year. Those that were killed will be remembered in some form and they should not be forgotten. Five years ago today, 20 children who wanted nothing more than to sit on Santa’s lap and tell them their Christmas wishes were silence, as were the six adults that were there to teach and protect them. For those like Rush Limbaugh and Adam Jones that insist that Sandy Hook never happen, they need to read the FBI report or keep silent. As for the NRA, at best they should be held liable (if not criminally responsible) for what happened.

Let’s hope they are NOT forgotten.

For the people of Newtown, Connecticut, Christmas came and Christmas went. Packages were opened, gifts were handed out, shrieks of childhood joy filled the homes of the Connecticut town. New Year’s Day came and went as well, as people counted down 2016 in the hopes of a better 2017.

For 26 families in Newton, the celebration was somewhat somber if not muted. 20 children will never see another Christmas or leave milk and cookies for Santa. Six teachers will never exchange gifts with families and friends. They will never see a New Year’s Day Parade or football game, go to a prom, get married or have their own children.

December 14th marked the four-year anniversary of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School that took their lives. On December 14th, the town held a moment of silence to mark the anniversary of the shooting. In their honor and to remember those that perished, Newtown first selectman Pat Llodra asked town employees to refrain from doing any work, including answering phones, between 9:30 a.m. and 9:45 a.m., the time that the shootings took place. As for the schools in Newton, it was going to be a regular school day but School Superintendent Joseph Erardi said there would be quiet reflections and age-appropriate messages for students.

While the rest of America on the East coast was getting ready to start their school day and most of America was about to start their workday or go Christmas shopping, Adam Lanza decided to take matters into his own hands by first shooting and killing his mother, then go on his rampage, which ended with his death at his own hands.

President Barack Obama said in a Facebook post that the anniversary was a day to remember staff and teachers who guided children to safety, the first responders and the victims.

“And we remember the children who held each other in the face of unconscionable evil; who, even as they’ve grown up in the shadow of this tragedy, will grow up loved and cared for more fiercely than ever,” Obama wrote.

26 people dead. Murdered. They will never meet Santa, will never go to a Christmas party or a Midnight mass again. Their parents, families and friends deprived of love and joy because of a crazed man that decided to take himself out of the world instead of facing justice. This is in no way an attempt to get rid of guns or do away with the 2nd Amendment; rather, this is the time for medical experts, educators, victims and the advocates of those that are no longer with us, legislators and the NRA to sit at table and have a meaningful discussion. It’s not going to be easy and there will be resistance but if even one life is saved, it’s worth the battle.

In a few days, it will be Valentine’s Day. Cards will be passed out and exchanged and cupcakes will be consumed. For Sandy Hook Elementary School, there will be 26 fewer cards passed out and 26 fewer cupcakes eaten. Here’s to hoping that Lanza’s name will never pass the lips of those that are still there, that it will NEVER be uttered again, either here on Earth or in Heaven. Here’s to hoping that those cupcakes will be consumed and those cards passed out in their honor.

He was a non-conformist, a quitter on life that turned his hatred into murder against those that had done him no harm. James Holmes caused mayhem was an angry quitter who gave up on life and killed 12 people, fueled by that hatred. He was found guilty by a jury of his peers last July and would eventually be sentenced to life without parole in a Colorado prison.

Today in an Aurora, Colorado courtroom, in the same courtroom that saw his murder trial play out like an movie, Superior Court Judge Carlos A. Samor, Jr. made it official.

Life without the possibilty of parole for the 12 murders plus 3,000 additional years for attempted murder and an explosives conviction. James Holmes will draw his final breath behind bars. Holmes will never be able to touch or see freedom again, let alone smell it. While some wanted Holmes to die by lethal injection, Samour noted that the trial was fair, even if some were upset that he would not be killed by the state.

“I believe in the system,” Samour said. “I said that before and I’ll say it again. I believe in the system.”

According to the Associated Press and KUSA-TV, Samour first spent more than half an hour defending the integrity of the justice system and disputing complaints that the trial was a waste of time and noted the proceedings, while gave family members an opportunity to tell the world about their slain loved ones and provided survivors the chance to talk about their ordeal.

More than 100 victims and survivors testified this week about the searing physical and emotional scars the 2012 shooting has left.

Holmes’ mother, Arlene, was the final witness to take the lectern Tuesday. She said her son feels remorse for his deadly attack on a Colorado movie theater. She said his mental illness and medications make it hard for him to express it.

“We know that is very, very hard for people to see,” she testified. “We cannot feel the depths of your pain. We can only listen to everything you have expressed, and we pray for you. … We are very sorry this tragedy happened and sorry everyone has suffered so much.”

To the end, Holmes’ state-appointed attorneys blamed the massacre on his schizophrenia and psychotic delusions, tellng the world that their client was was obsessed with the idea of mass killing since childhood, pursuing neuroscience in an effort to find out what was wrong with his brain.

Prosecutors pointed both to Holmes’ elaborate planning for the attack and his refusal to divulge to anyone — family, friends, psychiatrists — that he was thinking, and planning murder.

Holmes stockpiled guns and ammunition and mapped out the Aurora theater complex to determine which auditorium would allow for the most casualties and even went so far as to calculate police response times.

Defense attorney Daniel King said Tuesday Holmes will not appeal his conviction, sparing victims the possibility of another emotionally wrenching trial.

Holmes’ sentencing hearing was largely symbolic but gave scores of victims an unprecedented chance to vent their feelings to the judge. They told him of flashbacks and nightmares, of relentless survivor’s guilt and enduring physical pain.

James Holmes planned his shooting spree, planning it ever so carefully, like a surgeon making sure he or she made the right incision in the right spot. His actions caused death, chaos and sadness and in the end, 12 people are dead and hundreds were injured because of his actions. James Holmes cared only for himself. James Holmes fed his ego with his hatred, playing by his own rules. In the end, a jury of his peers said “we will separate you from society for your actions and punish you for them.”

James Holmes will probably spend the rest of his days in a cell 23 hours a day with one hour of exercise. He will probably eat his meals in that cell, not having any contact with any other human being aside from his attorney and guards, will grow old behind bars and will draw his last breath behind those bars. His punishment will be banishment from society and will never know love or joy.

James Holmes chose to play by his own rules and then tried to fake insanity. A jury said, “no, you knew what you were doing was wrong and we don’t believe you.” James Holmes will draw his final breath behind bars and when that time comes, there will probably be no tears shed. He will get a mention in the media and mourned by his family but nothing more. His flame will be put out. The tribe has spoken.

James Holmes will never know what freedom looks like again. A monster has been sent away, never to cause trouble for the community that he tortured by his actions and hatred. The monster has been dealt with. He will never harm anyone else again.

The people of Aurora, Colorado had a monster on their hands. It was one of their own. James Dillon Holmes chose to take the law into his own hands on July 20, 2012, killing nine citizens and wounding over 70 that wanted nothing more than to watch a movie before the weekend started.

Holmes walked into the theater No. 9 screening of “The Dark Knight Rises” like other patrons. He then walked out through a rear door, which he left propped open. Just after midnight, some 18 minutes after the movie “The Dark Knight” began, he returned wearing a ballistic helmet, a gas mask, black gloves and protective gear for his legs, throat and groin.

A tear gas canister exploded in the theater, then gunfire erupted from an AR-15 rifle, a 12-gauge shotgun and at least one .40 caliber handgun. The shooting stopped with Holmes’ arrest outside the theater about seven minutes after the first 911 calls were made to police. Police had another problem on their hands. In his apartment, there were several explosive devices that were set as booby traps if law enforcement tried to enter. Thankfully, the apartment complex was evacuated and the explosives were taken out of commisson.

It took almost four years to bring the monster to trial but the townspeople got what they wanted and deserved. Nine people had died at his hands and their families and friends seeked justice. In a trial that took all of May, June and July, jurors with ties to Columbine listened to both sides present their case.

“The evidence is clear that he could not control his thoughts, … he could not control his actions and he could not control his perceptions,” defense attorney Dan King said during closing arguments. They admitted that his actions were wrong but begged the jury to spare his client’s life.

Prosecutors — who called more than 200 witnesses to the stand, among them investigators, students who knew Holmes and his ex-girlfriend — insisted the shooter knew well what he was doing. He acted deliberately to deliver pain and his mental issues shouldn’t excuse him from paying the price, they argued.

“Look at the evidence, then hold this man accountable,” Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler said in his closing argument. “Reject this claim that he didn’t know right from wrong when he murdered those people and tried to kill the others. … That guy was sane beyond a reasonable doubt and he needs to be held accountable for what he did.”

Jurors reached a verdict Thursday and reached in almost 12½ hours with the jury starting deliberations Wednesday morning. In the end, it was justice that won that Thursday afternoon in Aurora, 15 miles outside Denver. 165 charges.

165 guilty verdicts. It was as if they had hit a homer with the bases loaded, with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning and the home team trailing.

In 2013, the prosecution signaled it would seek the death penalty. They may very well get that wish.

The shooter’s parents, Robert and Arlene Holmes, were regulars in court during their son’s trial and while they did not speak to the media, they have written two open letters and published a prayer book that detailed the family’s struggle, while pleading for his life to be spared. In one of those letters that appeared in the Denver Post in December 2014, the couple wrote “We have spent every moment for more than two years thinking about those who were injured, and the families and friends of the deceased who were killed, in the theater shooting in Aurora. “We are always praying for everyone in Aurora. We wish that July 20, 2012, never happened.” While they don’t deny that their son had a hand in the murders, they also said they didn’t think he should have been put on trial or even convicted and possibly dying in prison, given his mental state.

“James (Holmes) is not a monster. He is a human being gripped by a severe mental illness,” his parents wrote. “We believe that the death penalty is morally wrong, especially when the condemned is mentally ill.” Had he not been found guilty by reason of insanity (or mental defect, as it is called in most states), he would have been sentenced to the state hospital in Pueblo until doctors deem him safe to leave. With the guilty verdicts, the trial will enter a sentencing phase in which the jury must decide between life in prison or the death penalty.
According to Dr. Max Watchtel, Psychologist for KUSA-TV, there will be relief and anger.

Relief. Relief that the jury rejected the defense’s claim that the shooter was insane.

On Wednesday, the jury will begin hearing arguments from the prosecution and defense on the sentence they should impose—their options are life in prison without parole and the death penalty.

Jurors will hear the prosecutors point out how heinous and deplorable the shooter’s actions were on the night of July 20, 2012 and how he deserves death.

From defense attorneys, jurors will hear a very different story. They will hear tales of a normal childhood, friends in college and awards won. They will hear about the mental illness that gripped the shooter and how his life should be spared because of that uncontrollable illness.

And then, jurors will hear from the victims. This is where the anger may come into play.

They have already heard stories from victims about their experiences in the theater and the wounds they sustained. But in the trial phase, those stories were limited for a number of legal reasons.

During the sentencing phase, victims will be allowed to talk about the impact the shooting has had on their lives over the last three years: the nightmares, the multiple surgeries, the broken relationships, the isolation. No punches will be pulled. Emotions will be as raw as a carrot pulled from the Earth. Tears will be shed and those that lost loved ones could direct that anger toward Holmes. To quote the Episcopalians, “no secrets will be hid.”

Dr. Wachtel said that for the jurors who have already heard months of emotional testimony, the next several weeks will be grueling. Many jurors who go through a capital-murder trial develop mental illnesses of their own, with depression and anxiety being the most common. They will be forced to listen to horrifying stories and they will be begged to have mercy for the man who caused that horror.

Despite the sentence they decide upon, the juror’s lives will be forever changed by their experience and they can add themselves to the list of victims of the Aurora theater shooting.

Jonathan Blunk, Alexander Boik, Jesse Childress, Gordon Cowden, Jessica Ghawi, John Thomas Larimer, Matthew McQuinn, Alex Sullivan, Alexander Teves, Rebecca Ann Wingo, Medek and the youngest victim, Moser-Sullivan. They will never come back to us, short of the ressurection. They are no longer with us on this Earth and thusly, cannot speak to us. The 12 jurors that heard evidence and did not buy the defense’s notion of insanity spoke for them. They spoke loudly. They spoke clearly. They spoke 165 times in a voice that was strong and clarion.

James Holmes acted as though we as judge and jury. On that night July night in a theatre in Aurora, he acted as executioner. The people of Arapahoe County saw it differently. 165 charges. 165 verdicts. The jury batted 1.000 and you can’t get any better than that.

This week, Holmes will learn his sentence as the jury will decide if he dies a natural death and leave things in God’s hands or they bypass the Almighty and put a needle in his arm. Even with the death penalty on the table and assuming that all 12 jurors agree that he should die by lethal injection, it will be years if not decades before the executioner gets his (or her) hands on him. We can be certain of one thing and that James Holmes will never draw breath as a free man.

James Holmes tried to change his looks during the trial. James Holmes tried to fake insanity. James Holmes failed and failed miserably. 165 counts. 165 guilty verdicts. Major EPIC fail. James Holmes will return to the same courtroom that convicted him and will learn if he draws his last breath behind bars or the executioner get his (or her) hands on him.

The people of Aurora and Arapaho County spoke loudly and clearly. They not only spoke for the nine victims that could not, they spoke for the community and the 70 that were wounded. They will get a chance to speak again this week with the penalty phase. James Holmes could have listened to his better angels that night in July. He chose to ignore them completely. He knew right from wrong and his actions took nine lives and cost him his freedom and could very well cost him his life.

The people of Aurora, Colorado had a monster on their hands and like in those old movies, they raised their torches and pitchforks and dealt with the monster. The monster known as James Holmes will never know freedom, let alone touch it. A jury of his peers said that he is accountable and will draw his final breath on this Earth behind bars. The bigger question is will he die at God’s hands or will the state of Colorado kill him.

Who will win that race?

It’s anyone’s guess.

The jurors and the charges

The twelve people who deliberated the case included nine women and three men with two having close ties to the 1999 Columbine shooting.

Juror 640: A white woman whose daughter is in the Army and whose son is in the Marines. She doesn’t watch the news, and is a union plumber.

Juror 17: White woman in her 40s or 50s who works as a lawyer and is a caregiver for her elderly parents.

Juror 329: White woman in her 20s who is a volunteer victims’ advocate in Aurora.

Juror 535: Middle-age white woman whose ex-husband works as a police officer. Her niece was in the cafeteria at Columbine High School the day of the shooting.

Juror 87: Middle-age white woman who says her son is a drug addict and who has struggled with depression in the past.

Juror 118: White woman and physicist with degrees in psychology and mathematics. Competitive shooter.

Juror 378: White woman in her 50s who worked as a paramedic transporting mentally ill patients.

Juror 155: Middle-age white man in his 50s who was living in California when the shooting happened. He said he doesn’t know much about the case.

Juror 527: White man in his 30s who works as a store manager at Bed, Bath and Beyond.

Juror 737: White man in his 20s or 30s who was in Columbine High School during the shooting. He says the perpetrators were his good friends until eighth grade and that he went to prom with one of the victims. He wound up being the foreperson in the trial.

Juror 557: A middle-age white woman in her 30s or 40s. She says mental illness isn’t an excuse for committing a terrible crime.

Juror 311: A middle-age white woman who wanted to hear from Holmes’ parents.

The Charges

Counts 1 – 12
First-degree murder – after deliberation

•The full formal charge, which was read aloud in court is: “On or about 7/20/2012, James Eagan Holmes unlawfully, feloniously, after intent to cause the death of a person other than himself, caused the death of [VICTIM]; in violation of section 18-3-102(1)(a), C.R.S.”
•This is the first of two theories of murder being charged. It means he planned to kill the victim, then he did.

Counts 13 – 24
First-degree murder – extreme indifference

•This is the second of two theories of murder being charged. In layman’s terms, it means he maliciously did something that could kill a person, and then he killed a person.
•The full formal charge, which was read aloud in court is: “On or about 7/20/2012, James Eagan Holmes unlawfully and feloniously, under circumstances evidencing an attitude of universal malice manifesting extreme indifference to the value of human life generally, knowingly engaged in conduct which created a grave risk of death to persons other than himself, and thereby caused the death of [VICTIM]; in violation of section 18-3-102(1)(d), C.R.S.”

Counts 25 – 94
Attempted first-degree murder – after deliberation
•Similar to the murder charges, one of two theories. This one similar to counts 1-12.
•One charge for each of the 70 injured victims.

Counts 95 – 164

•Similar to the murder charges, one of two theories. This one similar to counts 13-24.
•One charge for each of the 70 injured victims.

Count 165
Possession of an explosive or incendiary device
•This charge stems from Holmes booby-trapping his apartment with an elaborate setup of explosive material.

He was a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Judas Iscarot sitting among Jesus. There were nine of them that welcomed him into their circle at a bible study on Wednesday night in Charleston. While most of America was going about its business last Wednesday night, Dylann Roof read and studied scripture with them. Then, like Judas, he betrayed the people that he sat among.

Roof then went on to kill nine people that he had met earlier and then fled to Shelby, North Carolina. It didn’t take the autrhorities long to find him and he eventaually surrendered without incident. Shackled, handcuffed and wearing a bullet-proof vest, he was led out of the Cleveland County, North Carolina courthouse and taken back to Charleston by plane, waiving extraditon back.

Confessing to the crimes, Roof returned to South Carolina to face justice. Friday was his first chance to see a judge, which is a formality in many states. He didn’t see him face to face, instead seeing the judge via closed-circuit televison. A few of the family members of his victims spoke, telling the 21-year old Roof that they forgave him and to seek God. With that and given the seriousness of his crimes, bail was denied for the nine murders. For the use of a gun in the commission of a felony, his bail was set at $1 million. South Carolina law dictates that he would not be allowed out on bond.

Experts say that the case could last between six months if he were to plead guilty or up to three years if the death penalty — which is legal in South Carolina — is pursued. The jail’s protocol dictates that he will be placed on suicide watch immediately and given the high-profile nature of the crime and sensitivity about the crime itself, legal experts also said that Roof will not have contact with the general jail population for his own safety. Roof’s first hearing was done via CCTV link Friday afternoon, with his next hearing slated for October 23.

It would appear to some that Roof will probably not draw breath a free man and some are calling for him to die by lethal injection should he be found guilty of nine counts of murder. Even his own uncle, Carson Cowles, says he will “push the button myself” if his nephew receives the death penalty, which is legal in South Carolina. “I’ll be the one to push the button. If he’s found guilty, I’ll be the one to push the button myself,” Cowles said. “If what I am hearing is true, he needs to pay for it.”

On a website, Roof wrote “I have no choice I am not in the position to, alone, go into the ghetto and fight. I chose Charleston because it is most historic city in my state and at one time had the highest ratio of blacks to Whites in the country. We have no skinheads, no real KKK, no one doing anything but talking on the internet. Well someone has to have the bravery to take it to the real world and I guess that has to be me.” In one picture, Mr. Roof is shown posing with wax figures of slaves. In others, he posed with a handgun. He is alone in all the photos, which appear to have been taken at a slave plantation, Sullivan Island, South Carolina and at the Museum and Library of Confederate History.

The website links to several pages of long racist rants. Some describe Hispanics as enemies and say that “Negroes” have lower I.Q.s and low-impulse control. The writings are not signed. The domain site was registered in February under the name Dylann Roof. Roof hails from Columbia, South Carolina and is a high school dropout and unemployed landscaper.

If ever there was an argument for premeditation, Dylann Roof fits the bill. Dylann Roof is the poster child for the NRA and for politicians that are sucking at their teats. This is not to say that those gun owners that follow the rules, fill out the proper paperwork and have nothing in their background that would stop them from owning a weapon or ammunition. It’s not just that, it’s issues with mental health, race, gender, social standing and sexual preference. Dylan Roof had his differences with people of other races. That’s fine. That’s his right as a citizen. What he did not have was the right to go to Charleston to shoot and kill nine people that he didn’t know. When he pulled the trigger that Wednesday evening, he crossed a line that he had no right to cross. There has to be a dialouge among gun owners, clergy, teachers, doctors and those that have lost family and friends to gun violence. The NRA and those that support that group need to be at the table to listen to those family members that lost loved ones at Columbine, Sandy Hook and Charleston.

Dylan Roof sits in a jail cell in Charleston and waits his fate and in a ironic twist of luck and or fate, his cell is next to Michael Slager, the former police officer who shot Walter Scott in the back a few months ago, are jail neighbors. Roof is being held in cell 1141B and Slager is in 1140B. Slager was indicted on June 8 and if convicted, he could spend the rest of his life in prison.

When you own a gun, you are expected to use it with a great deal of responsibilty. When you purchase a gun, there is a form that you have to fill out for every weapon you purchase, whether you purchase that gun in a sporting good store or a department store and there are NO exceptions and it should be that way at the gun shows that dot our nation every weekend. It’s time to close the loopholes. It’s time to punish not just the people that purchase a gun without going through the proper channels but the sellers as well, with the only exception being if a gun is being passed on from one generation to another. Killers are almost getting away with murder and the NRA is acting as if they are Pilate and are washing the blood off their hands. Dylann Roof needs to be made an example.

Dylann Roof was a wolf in sheep’s clothing. While it may be insulting to wolves, it’s a truth that cannot and should not be ignored. Nine people were needlessly killed by a man that they took into their fold. Dylan Roof acted as a coward and took nine lives that he had no right to take. In time, he will be punished for his actions and possibly sentenced to death in the event that the state of South Carolina wants to pursue that route. There will be a trial, there will jury selection, witnesses and victim impact statement should a guilty verdict come. There could also be the fact that Roof could plead guilty and avoid a trial. In any case, Dylann Roof will draw his last breath on Earth behind bars in a prison in South Carolina. We need to understand that this process cannot and should not be rushed. After all, this isn’t TV, where the case is solved in one hour and the credits roll at the end of the show. Dylann Roof rightfully needs to have his feet held to the fire, so to speak. The process is not going to be easy and at times, it will look like it’s going slower than we want it to. It will make us angry and cuss like a drunken Marine on shore leave. Be patient. It is what it is.

The doors at New Emmanuel AME opened Sunday morning and there was a church service. Church bells tolled Sunday morning, nine times in nine minutes, one toll for each victim. There were nine less people there but they were and will not be forgotten. In time, their deaths will be avenged and their funerals will have taken place. If ever there was a time for a dialouge about gun control, now is the time. If we have learned nothing else from Columbine, Sandy Hook and Charleston, it’s that loopholes need to be closed and guns need to kept out of the hands that don’t need or deserve them, not the people that are playing by the rules. The dead cannot speak and we the living have to be their voice and advocate.

Dylann Roof is going to be held accountable for his actions, which he admitted. Dylann Roof will draw his final breath on this Earth behind bars. Dylann Roof sat among his victims, shook hands and even spoke to the people that he would eventually kill.

A wolf in sheep’s clothing sits caged, awaiting its fate. A wolf fed by hate now sits alone in a cage that he all but made for himself, in a hell that he chose to create.

Sunday as America remember the 26 that died at Sandy Hook Elementary School two years ago, President and First Lady Obama lit 26 candles to honor the fallen as well as observing a moment of silence. Yesterday was the second anniversary of Adam Lanza’s shooting spree that started at his mother’s house, when he shot her before going to the school to kill 20 students and six teachers before eventually turning the gun on himself.

Since that day, where most of America was getting ready to send school children home for the Christmas holiday, there have been calls by citizen to take some form of action to at least prevent gun violence in our schools. Unfortunately, those calls have fallen on deafened and greedy ears. Since the December 14th Newtown killings, there have been more at least 44 school shootings on K-12 or college campuses in 24 states, according to a new report.

In a post on the Washington Post’s website, Marie Corfield, an art teacher in New Jersey, an activist and more importantly, a mother, wrote an open letter to elected officials not just asking them to do something. She begged them. The letter appeared on her blog, which she gave the newspaper permission to post.

Here’s the letter in its entirity.

Dear Elected Officials,

Two years ago today I stood in the hallway of my K-4 school and said to a coworker, “Did you hear? There was another school shooting—at an elementary school. They shot kindergarteners.” I remember looking at the little ones who were passing us on their way to class and thinking, it could have been them; it could have been us. According to Moms Demand Action, there have been almost 100 school shootings since that horrendous day at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut where 20 children and 6 adults were murdered by an insane gunman.

It’s been two years since the parents of those children hugged them tight and said goodbye as they walked into their school for the very last time.

Two years, and nothing has been done, but not for lack of trying on the parts of some very dedicated public servants on both sides of the aisle. Why? Why are only some of you trying and not every single one of you?

“It’s not the right time to talk about gun violence,” you say.

“We have to let the families mourn,” you say.

“We don’t want to politicize such a tragic event,” you say.

Well, I say, “Baloney!” Every single time a child dies from gun violence—whether in Newtown, Connecticut Newark, New Jersey, is the exact time we should talk about preventing it. Gun violence is a preventable public health crisis. If We the People truly love our children—all children—we would make saving them our top priority.

Thanks to those of you who are more afraid of offending the gun lobby than protecting our children, our schools have become prisons for the innocent. Every door is locked at all times lest an intruder find a closet or empty classroom in which to hide. Fire drills are now accompanied by a new set of drills with menacing names like ‘active shooter’, ‘lock down’, ‘lock out’ or ‘Code C’ (C for Columbine?) And the students know why—even the little ones. They know and they’re afraid but we do our best to calm their fears and change the subject. Back in the 50′s and 60′s when ‘duck and cover’ drills were practiced, it was because of a threat from a place beyond most young children’s comprehension: the Soviet Union or Cuba, somewhere over ‘there’, far away. Now the threat is very real, yet completely unpredictable. Is it that kid in 3rd period chemistry or the one who always sits by himself at lunch or the star football player? Who knows which one will snap, and when—and if they’ll have a gun?

While many of you have been busy slashing education funding to the bone, school districts across this country are scraping together scarce resources to upgrade entrances to make them impervious to gunfire, installing bullet-proof glass, metal detectors, baggage scanners, panic buttons, state-of-the-art surveillance systems, and devices that can instantly detect a sexual predator simply by scanning a drivers license. More and more now have armed police on premises all day. I’m sorry but I didn’t see a line item for these expenses in the recent appropriations bill. Did I miss something?

Because of your failure to act, school culture has also changed. What was once harmless child’s play is now grounds for suspension. Drawing a battle scene between aliens and soldiers on a piece of paper could land a second grader in the guidance office. Darth Vader must leave his light saber home during the Halloween parade.

All this keeps children safe but it does not keep them free. You imprison them and the nation because you are more beholden to the gun lobby and its big checkbook than you are to the will and safety of the American people—including many responsible gun owners. The more schools feel like prisons, the shorter the school to prison pipeline becomes.

The new normal for many of America’s children is anxiety and post traumatic stress disorder because they live with the daily fear and the real possibility of being injured or killed by a gun. For some, the feeling is merely background noise like, ‘look both ways before crossing the street, and be careful because some lunatic with a gun could kill me in school’. For others it’s a 50-piece marching band parading through their head because now, not only are their neighborhoods and homes not safe from gun violence, their schools—the one place where many gained respite—are perceived unsafe, too. It alters their brain chemistry. It keeps them from learning and living and becoming the best version of themselves.

In a few short weeks many of you will be sworn in to begin a new term of service but who will you serve? It has become glaringly apparent in light of recent Supreme Court decisions that the will of the people has been usurped by the will of corporations and powerful lobbies. When does a child’s right to live supersede the wants of the NRA? When do all of you who wear the Bible on your sleeve, who are so concerned about what goes on inside a woman’s body, start putting the Fifth Commandment before the Second Amendment when it comes to protecting children from gun violence?

In order for the Constitution to work, we need laws that strengthen and enhance its tenets. There is more than enough room in our society for the Second Amendment and sensible gun legislation. We need national laws that make the consequences of illegal sales, possession, use and trafficking of firearms swift and severe. We need background checks for every, single gun purchase. And we need laws that will help keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill. These laws can be enacted without compromising the rights of the millions of law-abiding gun owners but that requires you to serve We, the People not We, the Corporations.

Despite Governor Christie’s best efforts, a recent report says that I live in one of the safest states in the nation in terms of gun violence. That said, the lives of too many children in New Jersey are ended by a bullet. Clearly, the state still has work to do:

New Jersey still doesn’t require a background check for every firearm sale and has not passed a law banning .50-caliber rifles… Nearly 75 percent of guns discovered at crime scenes in the state were imported from outside New Jersey…

“Unfortunately, trafficked firearms purchased in nearby states with weak gun laws are inundating New Jersey,” said the report, which called for a new strong federal statute to make gun trafficking a federal crime. (emphasis mine)

While the article goes on to say that a recent Pew Research Center poll found that “52 percent of Americans favor gun rights, compared with 46% opting for gun control”, Media Matters reports that the polling questions are deeply flawed and do not accurately reflect the views of the overwhelming majority of Americans. So, please don’t hide behind the banner of the “will of the people” on this one because it just ain’t so.

I was in Frenchtown, New Jersey in March 2013 when 26 cyclists from Newtown, dressed in Sandy Hook’s colors of green and white, stopped by on their way to Washington, DC to lobby for stricter gun control legislation. I heard their impassioned calls to end the slaughter of our children. I listened to Mike Pohle, a fellow Raritan Township resident, choke back tears as he talked about the tragic loss of his teenage son in the Virginia Tech massacre. The Newtown Action Alliance wasn’t calling for an all-out gun ban. They simply wanted common sense reforms like those mentioned above. But that didn’t happen because too many of you were more concerned about the green of your campaign coffers than the green of the ribbons they wore.

The loss of a child is the greatest tragedy anyone will ever face. During this holiday season, in far too many homes across this country, stockings will be hung, candles lit, places set, gifts wrapped and prayers said for children who are no longer there. Scabs will be ripped off, old wounds exposed, hearts broken all over again as families remember what was and grieve for what could have been. Corporations won’t be doing that. Neither will lobbies. Their doors will be closed, the lights off, they will be home with their families.

Please remember that as you celebrate the season with your family, with your children. Please remember that when you are sworn in next month. Please remember to do what’s right, not what’s easy. The very lives of our children are depending on you.



Marie’s letter makes a lot of sense. There is plenty of room at the table for those that want to keep children safe as well as those that want to own guns. It’s not that we want to punish the ones that are following the rules, going through background checks and making sure their weapons are secure when they’re not in use, it’s about our elected leaders that say they listen to us and yet take donations from the NRA. Nothing against the NRA but it’s time that they step up and do what’s right. It’s time that our elected leaders on both sides of the aisle listen to the people that put them in office, not the special interest groups and surely not the NRA.

The 2nd Amendment says you have the right to own a gun. Fine. I can accept that and I don’t have a problem with it. It doesn’t give anyone the right to go into a school and kill 26 people, like Adam Lanza did. The sad thing is that Adam Lanza escaped justice when he turned the gun on himself. It’s time to fix the flaws. It’s time to do what is right, not what is popular, as Paul wrote in the New Testament. Sandy Hook was a tragedy that might have been averted if Lanza’s mother had said no to him having a gun. We’re getting tired of funerals for children.

Common sense reforms. Plain and simple.

Again, it’s not about punishing the ones that are playing by the rules, it’s keeping the ones that don’t need or deserve to have a gun in check and away from them if not for our good, then for theirs.

20 parents will never see their children open gifts this Christmas. They will never have the satisfaction of seeing them drive a car for the first time, go to prom, graduate from high school and college and will never have grandchilren. They are gone forver. They can’t come back to speak to us, short of the second coming. Doing what’s right is a lot better than easy. It’s hard and there are going to be some that will disagree. That’s fine. At least there’s a dialouge going on. We all need to come to the table and listen to each other, not talk at each other, not say “you’re wrong and I’m right.” We can agree to disagree and that’s fine. That’s the thing that makes this nation what it is. Yelling at each other does nothing but gets your blood pressure up and a sore throat.

It’s time to listen to our better angels. After all, it’s what the 20 kids that died would have wanted.

Week seven was one for the record books, whether your name was Manning, Murray or your team was mounting a comeback.

It was also a week for celebration on Florida’s east coast as Jacksonville broke into the win column with a 24-6 win over Cleveland at home. That leaves the Raiders as the only team without a win in the 2014 campaign.

PASSING FANCY: Quarterbacks have been historically efficient through Week 7 of the 2014 season, combining for a league-wide passer rating of 91.3 and a completion percentage of 63.3. Both are on pace to be the highest of any season in NFL history and would surpass records set in 2013 (86.0 passer rating; 61.2 completion percentage).

The league-wide yards-per-pass attempt average, currently at 7.27, is also on pace to be the highest of any season in the Super Bowl era.

The seasons with the highest league-wide yards-per-pass attempt average in the Super Bowl era (since 1966):

* Through Week 7; One game remaining

HISTORIC MANNING: In Denver’s 42-17 win against San Francisco on Sunday Night Football, Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning threw four touchdowns, bringing his career total to 510, surpassing Brett Farve (508) for the most career touchdown passes in NFL history.

The players with the most career touchdown passes in NFL history:

Peyton Manning – Indianapolis, Denver (510)*
Brett Favre – Green Bay, New York Jets, Minnesota (508)
Dan Marino – Miami (420)
Drew Brees – San Diego, New Orleans (374)*
Tom Brady – New England (372)*
* Active

COMEBACKS GALORE: The 2014 season has featured many close games and great comeback victories. Last week, comebacks were the order of the day, so don’t count anyone out.

There have been 10 comeback victories of 14+ points, tied for the second-most such comebacks through Week 7 since 1970.

The most comeback wins of 14+ points through Week 7 since 1970:

Pittsburgh overcame a 13-point deficit on Monday Night Football to win 30-23 over Houston at home at Heinz Field. There have been 20 comeback victories of 10+ points, the third-most such comebacks through Week 7 since 1970 (1987, 23; 2011, 21).

PASSING FANCY: Quarterbacks have been historically efficient through Week 7 of the 2014 season, combining for a league-wide passer rating of 91.5 and a completion percentage of 63.3. Both are on pace to be the highest of any season in NFL history and would surpass records set in 2013 (86.0 passer rating; 61.2 completion percentage).

The league-wide yards-per-pass attempt average, currently at 7.28, is also on pace to be the highest of any season in the Super Bowl era.

The seasons with the highest league-wide yards-per-pass attempt average in the Super Bowl era (since 1966):

* Through Week 7

QB MILESTONES: Below is a sampling of the quarterback milestones that were reached in Week 7:

•In Denver’s 42-17 win against San Francisco on Sunday Night Football, Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning threw four touchdown passes, bringing his career total to 510, surpassing Brett Farve (508) for the most career touchdown passes in NFL history.

Manning (33) extended his NFL record for the most career games with four or more touchdown passes. •Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford threw a five-yard touchdown pass with 1:48 remaining to give the Lions a 24-23 come-from-behind victory over New Orleans. It marked Stafford’s sixth career game-winning touchdown pass inside the two-minute warning of the fourth quarter, the most in NFL history through a player’s first six seasons.

•Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers passed for 255 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions for a 154.5 passer rating in the Packers’ 38-17 win against Carolina. The performance marked Rodgers’ fourth consecutive game with at least three touchdown passes and no interceptions, tied for the longest such streak in a single season in NFL history (Tom Brady, 2007).

Rodgers is the only player in NFL history with at least 18 touchdown passes and one or zero interceptions through his team’s first seven games to begin a season.

•Miami quarterback Ryan Tannehill became the third player in NFL history with at least 275 passing yards (277), a completion percentage of 78.0 or better (78.1) and 45+ rushing yards (48) in a single game, joining Ken Anderson (November 3, 1974) and Jeff Garcia (December 14, 2003) as the only players to accomplish the feat.

•Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson threw for 313 yards and rushed for 106 yards in a losing cause against St. Louis on Sunday to become the first player in NFL history to have 300+ passing yards and 100+ rushing yards in a single game.

•Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger threw two touchdowns in the Steelers’ 30-23 win against Houston on Monday Night Football. Roethlisberger has 10 touchdown passes this season and tied Pro Football Hall of Famer Jim Kelly (11) for the fourth-most consecutive seasons with 10 or more touchdown passes to start a career in NFL history.

The most consecutive seasons with 10+ touchdown passes to start a career:
Fran Tarkenton-Minnesota, New York Giants (1961-76, 16)
Peyton Manning-Indianapolis (1998-2010, 13)
Warren Moon-Houston, Minnesota (1984-95, 12)
Ben Roethlisberger-Pittsburgh (2004-13, 11)*
Jim Kelly-Buffalo (1986-96, 11)
Dan Marino-Miami (1983-92, 10)
* Active Streak

WAYNE’S WORLD IS EXCELLENT: Indianapolis wide receiver Reggie Wayne had four catches for 15 yards in the Colts’ 27-0 win over Cincinnati. Wayne (14,000) became the ninth player in NFL history to reach 14,000 receiving yards and only the fifth to do so with one franchise.

AWESOME ANTONIO: Pittsburgh wide receiver Antonio Brown caught nine passes for 90 yards in the Steelers’ 30-23 win over Houston on Monday Night Football. It marked Brown’s seventh consecutive game with at least five catches and 80 receiving yards, tying Dwight Clark (1982) for the second-most consecutive such games to start a season in NFL history. Pro Football Hall of Famer Michael Irvin had nine consecutive such games to start the 1995 season.

Brown also threw a touchdown pass and became only the third player in NFL history to have at least nine catches and throw a TD pass in a single game (James Wilder, 1984; Pro Football Hall of Famer Jerry Rice, 1995).

CHARLES IN CHARGE: Kansas City running back Jamaal Charles rushed for 95 yards and one touchdown in the Chiefs’ 23-20 win at San Diego. Charles now has 6,113 career rushing yards, surpassing Priest Holmes (6,070) for the most in franchise history.
NO PLACE LIKE HOME: Be it ever so humble…

The New England Patroits have won 16 consecutive home games against division opponents after defeating the New York Jets 27-25 on Thursday Night Football. The Patriots are now tied with Dallas (1991-95) and Miami (1971-75) for the third-longest such streak since 1970.

The teams with the most consecutive home wins against division opponents since 1970:
Green Bay (1994-98, 18)
Buffalo (1988-92, 17)
New England (2009-present, 16)
Dallas (1991-95, 16)
Miami (1971-75, 16)

RUNNING COWBOY: Dallas running back De Marco Murray rushed for 128 yards and a touchdown in the Cowboys’ 31-21 win against the New York Giants. Murray has rushed for at least 100 yards in each of his first seven games, surpassing Pro Football Hall of Famer Jim Brown for the longest such streak in NFL history to begin a season.

The longest start-of-season streaks in NFL history with at least 100 rushing yards:
DeMarco Murray-Dallas (2014-7)*
Jim Brown-Cleveland (1958-6)
O.J. Simpson-Buffalo (1973-5)
O.J. Simpson-Buffalo (1975-5)
* Active streak

Murray’s 913 rushing yards lead the league this season and are the third-most rushing yards in a team’s first seven games since 1980 (Jamal Lewis, 977; Terrell Davis, 1,001).

The most rushing yards through a team’s first seven games since 1980:
Terrell Davis, Denver (1998-1,001)
Jamal Lewis, Baltimore (2003-977)
DeMarco Murray, Dallas (2014-913)
Barry Sanders, Detroit (1994-889)
Walter Payton, Chicago (1984-875)
Terrell Davis, Denver (1997-861)

YOUNG KICKER: Arizona rookie kicker Chandler Catanzaro made his only field goal attempt (41 yards) in the Cardinals’ 24-13 win at Oakland. Catanzaro has converted all 15 field-goal attempts this season, tying St. Louis’ Greg Zuerlein (15 in 2012) for the longest streak of consecutive field goals made to start a rookie season in NFL history.

(BYE)ING A WIN: The Kansas City Chiefs and head coach Andy Reid defeated San Diego 23-20 on Sunday following their bye week. Reid (14-2, .875) is tied with Green Bay’s Mike McCarthy (7-1, .875) for the second-best winning percentage among head coaches coming off a bye week (minimum eight games), trailing only Pro Football Hall of Famer Marv Levy (8-1, .889). Reid’s 14 career wins following a bye week are the most of any NFL head coach in games following a bye week.

The head coaches with the best records following a bye week (minimum eight games):

Marv Levy-Kansas City, Buffalo (8-1, .889)
Andy Reid-Philadelphia, Kansas City (14-2, .875)*
Mike McCarthy-Green Bay (7-1, .875)*
Dennis Green-Minnesota, Arizona (11-3, .786)
John Fox-Carolina, Denver (10-3, .769)*
* Active

In addition to Manning passing Farve last week…

•Detroit overcame a 14-point deficit en route to a 24-23 come-from-behind win against New Orleans. It marked the 10th time an NFL team has come back from a deficit of at least 14 points to win in 2014, already tied for the second-most such comebacks through Week 7 of any season since at least 1970.

Wide receiver Corey Fuller caught the game-winning five-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Matthew Stafford with 1:48 remaining in the fourth quarter, marking his first career touchdown catch.

•Dallas running back De Marco Murray rushed for 128 yards and one touchdown in the Cowboys’ 31-21 win against the New York Giants and became the first player in NFL history to rush for at least 100 yards in each of his team’s first seven games to start a season, surpassing Pro Football Hall of Famer Jim Brown (six games in 1958).

•Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers passed for 255 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions for a 154.5 passer rating in the Packers’ 38-17 win against Carolina. The performance marked Rodgers’ fourth consecutive game with at least three touchdown passes and no interceptions, tied for the longest such streak in a single season in NFL history (Tom Brady, 2007).

Rodgers is the only player in NFL history with at least 18 touchdown passes and one or zero interceptions through his team’s first seven games to begin a season.

•Indianapolis quarterback Andrew Luck passed for 344 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions for a 105.7 passer rating in the Colts’ 27-0 win against Cincinnati. Luck has passed for at least 300 yards in five consecutive games, tying Peyton Manning (2009) for the longest such streak in franchise history.

Wide receiver Reggie Wayne had four catches for 15 yards and became the ninth player in NFL history with 14,000 career receiving yards.

Ahmad Bradshaw, who had three catches for 36 yards and one touchdown against the Bengals, leads all NFL running backs with six TD catches this season. He is the first running back with six touchdown catches in his team’s first seven games of a season since San Diego’s Gary Anderson did it in 1986. The win improved the Colts improved to 5-2, earning the 500th total victory in franchise history. Indianapolis’ all-time record is 500-444-7.

•Buffalo rookie wide receiver Sammy Watkins had career-highs in catches (nine) and receiving yards (122) with two touchdowns, including the game-winning two-yarder with one second remaining in the fourth quarter of the Bills’ 17-16 win against Minnesota.

Watkins is the first rookie with at least 100 receiving yards and a game-winning touchdown catch with one second or less remaining in the fourth quarter of a game since 2009 (Tennessee wide receiver Kenny Britt did it vs. Arizona on November 29, 2009).

Buffalo cornerback Leodis McKelvin recorded interceptions on consecutive defensive plays, becoming the first Bills player to do so since Kirby Jackson on October 29, 1989 against Miami.

•Miami quarterback Ryan Tannehill completed 25 of 32 passes (78.1 percent) for 277 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions for a career-high 123.6 passer rating in the Dolphins’ 27-14 win at Chicago.

Tannehill, who also rushed for 48 yards, is the third player in NFL history with at least 275 passing yards, a completion percentage of 78.0 or better and 45+ rushing yards in a single game. He joins Ken Anderson (November 3, 1974) and Jeff Garcia (December 14, 2003) and as the only players to accomplish the feat.

•Kansas City running back Jamaal Charles rushed for 95 yards and one touchdown in the Chiefs’ 23-20 win at San Diego. Charles now has 6,113 career rushing yards, surpassing Priest Holmes (6,070) for the most in franchise history.

Chief head coach Andy Reid improved his career record in games following a bye week to 14-2 (.875), the most victories of any NFL head coach in games following a bye week.

Week eight began with San Diego traveling to Denver to take on the Broncos and Peyton. Yes, THAT Peyton. Week eight ends in Arlington as a pair of NFC East rivals that would just as soon kill each other as look at each other meet when Washington hosts the Dallas Cowboys in prime time on Monday night.

As the NFL approaches the midpoint of the season, the games – and standings – have been close. So there’s a lot to look forward to in the weeks ahead.

Five games in Week 7 were decided by two points or fewer, the most such games of any NFL weekend since 1982 (Week 7). In two of those contests, the game-winning points were scored in the final seconds.

Dallas owns the best record in the NFL at 6-1 and three other clubs are right behind the Cowboys at 5-1 (Arizona, Denver and Philadelphia). But let’s not count out teams that are struggling as they can still turn things around this season. Since 1990, 33 teams had a losing record after seven games and advanced to the playoffs. The Eagles accomplished the feat last year.

And this week, as the NFL returns to the United Kingdom for the second of three sold-out 2014 International Series Games, fans in the United States will experience a fourth game broadcast window on Sunday morning for the first time as the Atlanta Falcons host the Detroit Lions at London’s Wembley Stadium at 9:30 a.m. Eastern (1:30 p.m. local time in the United Kingdom).

“We are excited about playing three regular-season games in the UK for the first time and debuting a new game time that we expect to be a hit with fans on both sides of the Atlantic and around the world,” says Mark Waller, the NFL’s executive vice president of international.

Miami beat Oakland 38-14 in London in Week 4 before a crowd of 83,436 to kick off this year’s International Series. The Jacksonville Jaguars will host the Dallas Cowboys in Week 10 at Wembley in the final installment of the UK tripleheader.

The International Series has seen some very close contests. In the first nine games, five have been decided by one score.

The nine regular-season games played at Wembley Stadium:

September 28, 2014 (4) Miami 38, Oakland 14
October 27, 2013 (8) San Francisco 42, Jacksonville 10
September 29, 2013 (4) Minnesota 34, Pittsburgh 27
October 28, 2012 (8) New England 45, St. Louis 7
October 23, 2011 (7) Chicago 24, Tampa Bay 18
October 31, 2010 (8) San Francisco 24, Denver 16
October 25, 2009 (7) New England 25, Tampa Bay 7
October 26, 2008 (8) New Orleans 37, San Diego 32
October 28, 2007 (8) New York Giants 13, Miami 10

As for week 7, it was a pretty decent week for picks, as we went 10-5 (not bad) and for the year, 68-39. There’s still a lot of football left and we haven’t even gotten to Thanksgiving yet.

Week 8 byes are New York Giants and San Francisco. Philly and Tampa Bay return to action after their byes and the Giants and 49ers play next week after coming off losses in week seven on the road. San Diego and Denver are sitting at home watching games on the tube after their contest last Thursday night in the Mile High City. Here are the picks for Sunday and Monday’s games for week 8.

Detroit (5-2) at Atlanta (2-5), 9:30 a.m. Eastern (1:30 p.m. London) (FOX and DirecTV 705) Wembley Stadium. It’s the second game in the NFL’s International Series as Atlanta and Detorit meet in merry old London in an early-morning contest that kicks off early Sunday morning (Eastern time), while most of America is at church. For the Falcons, it’s fish and chips and grits.

“It’s an opportunity for us to play a game in a different part of the world and have them experience some of the things that our fans have an opportunity to experience,” Lions head coach Jim Caldwell told the Detroit Free Press. “But for us, it’s a business trip, it’s not a vacation. Our business is to go over there and get ready to play a hungry Atlanta team in a game that means a lot to us. We’ve got our work cut out for us.”

The Lions, without WR Calvin Johnson, rallied from a 17-10 third-quarter deficit at Ford Field against New Orleans by outscoring the Saints 14-6 in the final quarter to come away with a 24-23 win. Lions QB Matthew Stafford threw a pair of TDs in the final 30 minutes of play, including a 5-yard TD pass to WR Corey Fuller with 1:48 left to play. Neither team breached the 100-yard barrier (New Orleans had 73, Detroit 59) and Stafford (299 yards), despite throwing a pair of TDs, was sacked twice and picked off twice in the contest, while Drew Brees threw for 342 yards and two TDs. Detroit went 7-15 on third down tries, while the Saints were 3-12 and 1-2 on fourth down. Time of possession… the clock was the ally of the Lions at 32:18 to New Orleans’ 27:42.

Since their blowout win over Tampa Bay in the Big Peach in week three, the Atlanta offense has failed to take flight, losing their last three contests and coming off another loss away from the Big Peach. The Falcons struggled on the road yet again, losing their third contest in a row to Baltimore 29-7 in Charm City. The loss was also the 33rd straight game that Atlanta did not have a rusher with 100+ yards and were held to 68 yards rushing (Baltimore wound up with 123), while Matt Ryan was sacked five times, once for a safety that all but sealed their fate. Ryan and WR Roddy White did manage to hook up for the Falcons’ only score in the contest, a 4-yard pass with just under seven minutes left that ended the Ravens’ bid for a shutout. Atlanta was 4-15 on third down (1-3 on fourth down) and held the ball for 26:47, while the Ravens were 4-11 (1-1 on fourth) on third down and kept the ball for 33:13. “We need to worry about this coming week,” says quarterback Matt Ryan. “We need to prepare better, practice better and play better. We know what to do.”

The Falcons will serve as the home team in London and will approach the week as they would as if they were at their own facility in Flowery Branch, Georgia.

“What we’re trying to do is try to make this like a home game,” Falcons head coach Mike Smith told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, WSB-TV, WXIA-TV, WAGA-TV and WGCL-TV. “This is one of our eight home games that we have, so our schedule of the week will be the same.”

Detroit may lead the series 23-12 and may have outscored the Falcons 781-723 but Atlanta has won the last three meetings, including a 31-18 win in the Motor City in 2012. Detroit’s last win came in the Motor City in 2006 by a final of 30-14. Even though both teams are on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, Detroit is favored by 4 and the over/under is 47. Both numbers make a lot of sense and this is the first game on the docket, because of the early start time in the Eastern part of the United States, when most of America is going to or already in church. Both teams want to do well on the other side of the Big Pond and this one might be a pretty good game to watch or record if you’re at the 9:30 mass. Falcons bounce back from their losses to Chicago and Baltimore in consecutive weeks and tame the Lions in jolly old England, covering the 4.

St. Louis (2-4) at Kansas City (3-3), 1 p.m. (FOX and DirecTV 707) Arrowhead Stadium. They’re separated by a 3:38 drive on I-70 and 251 miles and they’ve only met 10 times. They meet in Kansas City and not for jazz or BBQ and both the Rams and Chiefs had impressive wins last week.

Although they allowed Seattle QB Russell Wilson to rush for 106 yards and pass for 313 and a pair of TDs, St. Louis managed to hold off a late Seahawk rally and use trickery to their advantage to take a 28-26 win over the defending Super Bowl champs. The Rams ran for 102 yards in the win in the Gateway City but needed luck and daring to keep the ball out of Wilson’s hands when they successfully pulled off a fake punt that went for 18 yards as P Johnny Hekker and TE Justice Cunningham connected to seal Seattle’s fate late in the NFC West contest. St. Louis was outrushed by Seattle 171-102 and outpassed 313-170 in the contest and led 21-6 at halftime before the Seahawks outscored them in the final 30 minutes of play 20-7 to make things close. St. Louis was 4-9 on third down conversions in the great indoors (1-1 on fourth down) and held the ball for 27:36, while the Seahawks, who lost their second contest in as many weeks, went 6-12 on third down and kept the ball for 32:24.

The Chiefs clawed their way back from a 14-13 deficit after three quarters at San Diego and proceeded to outscore the Chargers in the final 15 minutes of play to win 23-20. San Diego eventually tied the contest up at 20-20 on a pair of Nick Novak field goals before the Chiefs marched down the field with 1:58 left to play. Using a 9-play, 62-yard drive that lasted 1:36, rookie K Carlos Santos connected on a 48-yard field goal with 21 seconds left to take the win on the road. Kansas City outrushed the Bolts 154-69 and Alex Smith outpassed Philip Rivers 221-205 and the Chiefs defense sacked Rivers twice and picked him off once. The Chiefs were 7-14 on third down tries and possessed the ball for 39 minutes, while the Chargers were 3-10 and kept the pigskin for 21 minutes.

Kanass City leads the series 6-4 and including games played when the Rams were in Los Angeles, the Chiefs have outscored St. Louis/Los Angeles 243-189. Kansas City has won the last five meetings in the series, which includes a 27-13 win in the Gateway City in 2010. The Rams’ last win in the series came in 1997, when they shut out Kansas City 16-0 at Arrowhead. Kansas City’s favored by 6 1/2 and the over/under’s 43 1/2. The Rams are actually better than their record and they did give Dallas, San Francisco and Seattle fits this season at home. The Chiefs look to catch Denver in the AFC West. Chiefs make everything up to date in Kansas City and wins at home in Arrowhead, even though they might not cover the 6 1/2.

Chicago (3-4) at New England (5-2), 1 p.m. (FOX and DirecTV 708) Gillette Stadium. Jay Cutler and the Chicago Bears travel to Foxboro to face off against Tom Brady and the Patriots in an intercoference matchup in western Massachusetts.

Chicago could never really get on track against Miami at Soldier Field last Sunday, losing to the Dolphins 27-14 in the Windy City. Da Bears were held to 52 yards rushing and Jay Cutler was sacked three times in the loss, while the home team turned the ball over three times, much to the chagrin of Chicago fans. Chicago was 5-12 and 2-3 on third and fourth down tries and held the ball for 22:38, while Miami was 4-11 on third down tries and perfect on their only fourth down tries and held the ball for 37:22.

New England led the J-E-T-S! JETS! JETS! JETS! 17-12 at the half in Foxboro last Thursday night and then held off GangGreen by blocking a 58-yard field goal try by Nick Folk to take a 27-25 win over their AFC East rivals. Even though the Pats were held to 63 yards on the ground (New York had 218, with RB Curtis Ivory accounting for 107), Brady did manage to throw for 261 yards and three TDs, while the Pats defense sacked Geno Smith three times. New England was 6-13 on third down conversions and kept the ball for 19:06, while GangGreen kept the ball for 40:54 and went 9-16 on third down tries.

New England leads the regular seaosn series 8-3,have outscored Da Bears 237-150 and have won three of the last four contests. New England’s last win over the Monsters of the Midway came in 2010 by a 36—7 final in Chicago. Da Bears’ last win over the PatS? It also came in the Windy City in 2000 by a 24-17 count. Brady and the Pats are favored by 6 1/2 in western Massachusetts and the game’s over/under is 50 1/2. Chicago’s not that bad but they have been known to struggle, while some think that the Pats have hit their stride. Pats cover the 6 1/2 in Foxboro with the win.

Buffalo (4-3) at New York Jets (1-6), 1 p.m. (CBS and DirecTV 712) MetLife Stadium. The Buffalo Bills travel across the
Empire State to face off a big AFC/AFL rival in upstate New Jersey when they face off against the struggling New York Jets in the Jersey Meadowlands. Both clubs are entering the AFC East contest from different directions.

The Bills trailed Minnesota 13-10 at the half in upstate New York before rallying late in the contest with the Vikings, coming away with a 17-16 win over the Purple Gang. Buffalo’s winning score literally came in the final seconds of the game (as in 1 second left) when Kyle Orton and rookie WR Sammy Watkins connected on a 2-yard TD pass to win the contest. Buffalo was outrushed by the Vikings 158-118 and Orton was sacked six times and turned the ball over five times in the contest, while the Bills sacked Teddy Bridgewater five times. The winning Bills were 4-12 on third down tries (1-1 on fourth down) and held the ball for 27:37, while Minnesota was 5-16, while they held the ball for 32:23.

GangGreen lost to a second future Hall of Fame QB in as many weeks as they make their way back to the Meadowlands, having lost to Peyton Manning two weeks ago and then to Tom Brady in Foxboro last Thursday night. In their 27-25 loss to the Pats last week, GangGreen held New England to 63 yards rushing, while they tallied 218, with RB Curtis Ivory leading all rushers in the contest with 107. That was some good news for Jets fans. Now for the bad. The Pats managed to sack QB Geno Smith three times, while Brady threw for 261 yards and three TDs and had a 58-yard field goal try by Nick Folk that would have given them the win blocked late in the contest. New York hoarded the ball in Foxboro for 40:54, while going 9-16 on third down tries, while the Pats held it for only 19:06 and went 6-13 on third down conversions.

Buffalo leads the series 55-51, which includes games played when the Jets were known as the Titans and then changed over to the Jets and played their home games at Shea Stadium. However… GangGreen has outscored the Bills 2,169-2,164. The two teams split the series in 2013, with each winning at home.

In week three in the Meadowlands, the J-E-T-S! JETS! JETS! JETS! escaped with their lives and a 27-20 win. GangGreen led 17-6 at the half and then held off a late Bills rally in the second half. Bilal Powell ran for 149 of New York’s 182 yards, while the Bills had 120. GangGreen sacked E.J. Manuel eight times in the contest, while Geno Smtih threw for 331 yards and a pair of TDs. Neither ballclub did anything stellar on third or fourth downs in the first meeting at MetLife Stadium (Buffalo was 4-18, 0-2; New York was 5-14, 0-1) and the clock was on the side of GangGreen at 34:13 to Buffalo’s 25:47.

The Bills would get some revenge in upstate New York in the second meeting in week 11 as they shot down the J-E-T-S! JETS! JETS! JETS! 37-14 in Orchard Park. Buffalo led 34-7 after 45 minutes of play and never let up on GangGreen, despite being held to 68 yards (New York ran for 134). The Buffalo defense caused problems for Smith as he would be sacked four times in the contest and forced four turnovers in the win. The Bills were 8-19 on third down tries (1-1 on fourth) and held the ball for 33:42, while GangGreen went 2-11 and 1-2 on third and fourth down, keeping the ball for a mere 26:18.

GangGreen in the week three contest in the Meadowlands won by 7 and were favored by 2 and the over/under of 39 was surpassed by 8 with both teams scoring 47 points. The Bills were favored by 1 and won by 23 and both teams covered the 41 over/under with 51 points combined. This time, GangGreen’s favored by 3 and the over/under’s 41. The Bills are beginning to be a pretty good team but not quite a great team. The J-E-T-S! JETS! JETS! JETS!? Chaos at best and they need to step things up if they want to catch New England in the AFC East and Rex Ryan wants to keep his job. GangGreen ends their skid and wins in the Meadowlands, covering the 3.

Miami (3-3) at Jacksonville (1-6), 1 p.m. (CBS and DirecTV 711) EverBank Field. Separated by 351 miles and a 5:10 minute drive down the Florida coast on I-95, the Dolphins travel north to the state’s second-largest city to face a Jacksonville Jaguar team that finally broke into the win column last week.

The Dolphins took Chicago to task at Solider Field last week, beating Da Bears 27-14 in the Windy City. Miami led 14-0 at the half, even though they were outscored in the final 30 minutes of play 14-13 and held Chicago to 52 yards rushing, while sacking Jay Cutler three times (Miami rushed for 137 in the win). Dolphins QB Ryan Tannehill threw for 277 yards and a pair of TDs with no interceptions in the contest that saw Da Bears turn the ball over three times. Miami was 4-11 on third down (1-1 on fourth) and kept the ball for 37:22, while Da Bears were 5-12 and 2-3 on third and fourth downs, holding the ball for 22:38.

Jacksonville finally cracked the win column in 2014 as they scored 17 second-half points without challenge by Cleveland to take a 24-6 win at home. Jacksonville led the Browns 7-6 at the half before going on their scoring rampage in the final 30 minutes of play. The winning Jaguars held Cleveland to 69 yards rushing, while the Jaguars ran for 185, with RB Denard Robinson leading all rushers with 127 and a TD. Cleveland on third down tries was 4-17 and 0-3 on fourth down and kept the ball for 28:27, while Jacksonville held the ball for 31:33 and went 5-16 on third down conversions.

Miami leads the series with their instate neighbors to the north 3-2, the Dolphins have outscored Jacksonville 93-75 and they have won the last two contests with Jacksonville, including a 24-3 win in Miami in 2012. Jacksonville’s last win against Miami came in 2006 in Miami by a final of 24-10. The ‘Fins in north Florida are favored by 6 with a 43 over/under. Jacksonville will make this one interesting but Miami prevails over their instate neighbor with the win and could cover the 6.

Seattle (3-3) at Carolina (3-3-1), 1 p.m. (FOX and DirecTV 706) Bank of America Stadium. Wilson vs. Newton. Russell vs. Cam. A pair of future Hall of Fame QBs meet in the Tar Heel State as the defending Super Bowl champs travel to Charlotte to face the Carolina Panthers.

Seattle trailed St. Louis 21-6 and then made things interesting in the Gateway City before coming up short against the Rams 28-26. Seattle managed to outscore St. Louis 20-14 in the second half and could have had come away with a win on the road were it not for some trickeration on the part of the Rams, who used a fake punt late in the contest to seal their fate. St. Louis would go on to run the clock out and win the contest.

The Seahawks outrushed St. Louis 171-102, with Wilson rushing for 106 yards and a TD, while throwing for 313 yards and a pair of TDs, despite getting sacked three times in the contest in the great indoors of the Edward Jones Dome. Seattle was 6-12 on third down and kept the ball for 32:24, while the Rams held the pigskin for 27:36, while going 4-9 on third down and 1-1 on fourth down.

Carolina trailed throughout their contest in Green Bay and fell to the Packers 38-17. Newton was sacked three times and picked off twice in the 21-point loss away from the Tar Heel State and Aaron Rodgers outpaced Newton 255-248 in passing yardage. As far as running the ball was concerned, Green Bay led Carolina 122-108 and the Panthers struggled on third down tries, going 4-12 and 0-1 on fourth downs, while the were 4-11. In a twist of irony, the clock favored Carolina, who held the ball for 30:11 to Green Bay’s 29:49.

The defending Super Bowl champs lead the series 4-2 and have outscored Carolina by a 95-89 margin. The two teams met last year in Charlotte and the Seahawks left the Tar Heel State with a 12-7 win to open the season for both teams. Carolina led 7-3 at the half after a scoreless first quarter before Seattle outscored the Panthers 9-0 in the final 30 minutes of play for the win. Carolina, who turned the ball over twice, outrushed Seattle 134-70 and Wilson was sacked twice in the contest. Both clubs struggled on third down conversions (Seattle 6-13, Carolina 5-11) and time favored the Seahawks at 30:14 to Carolina’s 29:46. Seattle covered the 3 1/2-point spread, winning by 5 but both clubs came nowhere close to the 44 1/2 over/under, as they combined for only 19 points.

The oddsmakers like the Seahawks on the road as a 5 1/2 point favorite and the over/under’s 44 1/2. Both teams are coming off losses on the road and both would like nothing better than to right their ships. Seattle goes “Angry Bird” on Newton and the Panthers in the Tar Heel State and takes the win, even though they might not cover the 5 1/2.

Minnesota (2-5) at Tampa Bay (1-5), 1 p.m. (FOX and DirecTV 709) Raymond James Stadium. A pair of former NFC North rivals meet in the Sunshine State when Minnesota leaves the Land of 10,000 Lakes to take on a struggling Tampa Bay team on Florida’s west coast.

Minnesota let a 16-10 lead late in the fourth quarter slip away from them in upstate New York as Buffalo’s Kyle Orton and rookie WR Sammy Watkins connected on a 2-yard TD pass with one tick left on the clock to lose 17-16. Minnesota managed to outrush Buffalo 158-118 but Teddy Bridgewater was sacked five times and threw a pair of interceptions last Sunday afternoon, while the Purple Gang sacked Orton six times but Orton did manage to outpass Bridgewater 283-157 in the contest. Minnesota was 5-16 on third down tries, holding the ball for 32:23, while the Bills, despite turning the ball over four times, was 4-12 and 1-1 on third and fourth downs, keeping the ball for 27:37.

Tampa Bay was idle last week and returns to the Sunshine State after their 48-18 thumping at the hands of Joe Flacco and the Baltimore Ravens at home. Tampa Bay trailed 38-0 after 30 minutes of play and could never recover from the deficit, although they did outscore the Ravens in the second half 17-10. Tampa Bay was held to 87 yards rushing, while Ravens RB Justin Forsett ran for 111 of Baltimore’s 169 yards, with Flacco throwing for 306 yards, five TDs and no interceptions. As if their day wasn’t bad enough, Bucs QB Mike Glennon was sacked five times in the 30-point loss. Tampa Bay was 2-17 on third down and 0-2 on fourth down and kept the ball for 27:46, while the Ravens kept the pigskin for 32:14 and went 7-13 on third down conversions.

The Vikings lead the series with their former divisonal rivals 31-22 and have outscored the Bucs 1,130-970. Tampa Bay has won the last six meetings with the Purple Gang, including a 36-17 win in the Twin Cities in 2012, while the Vikings’ last win came in 2001 in the Metrodome by a 20-16 count.

Surprisingly, the odds makers like Tampa Bay as a 3 point favorite. The over/under? 42. If you’re a fan of either of these teams, by all means watch. Otherwise, you’d be better off watching that “Manhattan” marathon on WGN America Sunday. Purple Gang covers the 3 and wins on the road in the Sunshine State.

Baltimore (5-2) at Cincinnati (3-2-1), 1 p.m. (CBS and DirecTV 710) Paul Brown Stadium. Joe Flacco and the Baltimore Ravens travel to the Buckeye State to take on Andy Dalton and the Bengals, who have a chip on their shoulder after their loss last week in Indy.

Baltimore held Atlanta to 68 yards rushing in their 29-7 win over the Falcons last Sunday in Charm City, while they rushed for 123. Joe Flacco did manage to throw a pair of TDs but was also picked off twice. The Ravens made life miserable for Matt Ryan and sacked him five times in the contest, including a sack that gave the home team a safety that all but sealed the win. Baltimore was 4-11 and 1-1 on third and fourth downs, keeping the ball in their nest for 33:13, while Atlanta went 4-15 and 1-1 on third and fourth down, keeping the ball for a dismal 26:47.

Cincinnati returns home after their lackluster 27-0 shutout loss in Indianapolis last Sunday. The Bengals were outrushed 171-32 and Andy Dalton was sacked three times in the contest in the Hoosier State. The Bengals were a less-than-impressive 1-13 on third down conversions and 0-1 on fourth down, keeping the ball for dismal 20:17, while Indy was 5-13 on third down conversions, holding on to the ball for 39:43.

Baltimore holds a 20-16 lead in the series and the Ravens have outscored Cincy 786-640. Baltimore and Cincinnati spilt the series in 2013 with each team taking wins in their home ballparks. In the first meeting in Charm City, the Ravens let a 17-0 lead slip out of their wings as the Bengals tied things up by scoring 17 points unchallenged before Baltimore’s Jeff Tucker connected on a 46-yard field goal with 5:27 left in the extra period to win 20-17. Dalton and Flacco were each sacked five times and threw two TD passes each, while Dalton threw three interceptions and Flacco tossed two. Baltimore was held to 85 yards on the ground, while the Bengals tallied 120 of their own. Third down tries… not much to talk about in the first meeting in Charm City, as the Bengals were 5-19 (3-5 on fourth down), while the Ravens were 3-16, with the Bengals winning the time of possession battle, keeping the ball for 37:58 to Baltimore’s 31:35, which included the overtime period.

Cincy got their revenge in the Buckeye State in week 17 as they took the Ravens to task 34-17, killing Baltimore’s playoffs hopes. The Bengals led 17-6 at the half and never looked back as they outscored Baltimore 17-11 in the second half, scoring those 17 points in the fourth quarter unchallenged. The Ravens were again held under 100 yards rushing in the second meeting, rushing only for 47, while the Bengals again breached the 100-yard barrier with 111. Turnovers were the order of the day in the second meeting, as Flacco threw three interceptions, while Dalton had four to go with his two TD passes in the contest. Cincy did much better on third down tries at home, going 7-13 in the contest and kept the ball for 33:57, while the Ravens were 4-15 and 0-2 on third and fourth down tries, keeping the ball for 26:03.

Cincinnati was a 1 1/2-point favorite in Charm City with a 44 over/under. The Ravens won by 3, covering the spread but the teams missed the over/under by a touchdown, scoring only 37. In the regular-season finale in Cincy, the Bengals won by 14 (they were favored by 6) and the over/under was 44 1/2. Both teams scored 51 points, which passed the assigned over/under with ease.

The Bengals are the home team and favored by 1 and the over/under comes in at 46. This one could very well go into overtime and that would drive some Cincy fans to drink and they all know what happened the last time they went overtime. However, Bengals come through at home and take the win, covering the 1.

Houston (3-4) at Tennessee (2-5), 1 p.m. (CBS and DirecTV 713) LP Field. The current Houston team travels to Music City to take on the team that was known as the Oilers before they moved to Nashville and both teams blew leads on the road last week and came away on the short end of the scoreboard.

Houston let a 13-0 lead slip away from them in Pittsburgh last Monday night and turned the ball over three times in their 30-23 loss to the Steelers in primetime at Heinz Field. The Texans took the early lead thanks to a 11-yard TD pass to rookie RB Alfred Blue from QB Ryan Fitzpatrick in their opening drive of the contest. They would then add a pair of Randy Bullock field goals for the lead before the wheels came off. Pittsburgh would go on to erase Houston’s lead by scoring 24 points in a span of almost five minutes, thanks in part to several miscues on offense and special teams. Houston held the Steelers to 76 yards on the ground, while the Texans’ Adrian Foster accounted for 102 of their 132 in the contest. Along with three turnovers, the Texans were 4-12 and 2-2 on third and fourth downs and held the ball for 27:54, while the Steelers were 5-14 on third down tries, keeping the ball for 32:06.

Tennnesee also let a lead slip out of their grasp and like the Texans, they fell to Washington 19-17. In the loss to the Redskins in Landover, Tennessee lost the lead when Kai Forbath connected on a 22-yard field goal by Kai Forbath on the final play of the game. Washington outrushed Tennessee 100-76 in the win in Landover and outpassed the Titans 267-160 to take their second win of the season. Both Tennessee and Washington went 3-11 on third down conversions, with the Titans going 1-1 on fourth dowh, while time was on Tennessee’s side, as they had the ball for 30:56 to Washington’s 29:04.

Tennessee leads the Texans 15-9 in the series and have outscored Houston by a slim 512-511 margin. Tennessee and Houston split the two meetings last season and each club won at home. The first meeting in week two in the Lone Star State saw the Texans rally to score the last 13 points of the contest in regulation and overtime as they would come away with a 30-24 win at Reliant Stadium. Houston trailed 10-7 at the half and led 14-13 after three quarters of play before losing the lead and then rallying to tie things up before sending the home crowd happy. Houston outrushed Tennessee 172-119 and sacked Titans QB Jake Locker four times, while Texans QB Matt Schaub threw for 298 yards, three TDs and a pair of interceptions. Houston’s winning score came courtesy of Schaub, who connected with WR DeAndre Hopkins, on a 3-yard TD pass with 10:32 in the extra period. Houston was 6-17 on third down tries, while Tennessee was 4-16 and 0-1 on fourth down tries. The time of possession battle was won by Houston at 33:14 (which includes the overtime), while Tennessee held it for 31:14.

Tennessee got revenge on the struggling Texans in week 17 in the Music City, coming away with a 16-10 win. The Titans trailed 7-6 after 30 minutes of play before they rallied in the second half in the season finale for both clubs, outscoring the Texans 10-3 in the second half. Titans RB Chris Johnson ran for 127 of his team’s 151, while Houston was held to 65 yards and Matt Schaub was picked off twice. Tennessee was 4-14 on third down tries, while Houston was 4-10 and the Titans won the time of possession battle as well as the game, holding the pigskin for 32:15 to Houston’s 27:45.

In the week two contest, Houston was favored by 9 1/2 with a 43 over/under. While the Texans did win the game, they did not cover the spread, winning by 6. Both clubs did manage to cover the over/under by scoring 54 points. In the week 17 affair in Music City that closed out the 2013 campaign for both clubs (since neither team made the post-season), Tennessee missed the spread by one, winning by 6 (they were favored by 7) and the 44 over/under was safe, as both teams only mustered 26 points. Houston’s favored by 1 and the over/under’s 43 1/2. Tennessee will make it close but Houston breaks out of its slump on the road with the win in Music City and covers the 1.

Philadelphia (5-1) at Arizona (5-1), 4:05 p.m. (FOX and DirecTV 714) University of Phoenix Stadium. Two of the four remaining one-loss teams will meet Sunday afternoon when Arizona hosts Philadelphia.

Fresh off their bye week, the Eagles are averaging an NFC-best 30.5 points per game this season and put forth a dominant defensive performance in Week 6 with a 27-0 shutout victory against the New York Giants. This week, Philadelphia will be looking to keep pace with first-place Dallas (6-1) by 1/2 a game in the NFC East.

“I like the way we compete,” says Eagles linebacker Trent Cole. “We’re not going to stop believing in each other and we’re not going to quit. We’re going to keep coming, keep coming.” Philly led the Giants and Eli 20-0 at the half and never looked back to take the shutout win in the city of Brotherly Love. The Eagles held New York to 85 yards rushing and sacked Manning six times in the contest in primetime and went 4-13 on third down tries, keeping the ball for 32:26. New York? They held the ball for 27:34 and were 2-14 and 0-1 on third and fourth down tries.

The first-place Cardinals improved to 5-1 with a 24-13 win at Oakland last week. Quarterback Carson Palmer threw first-half touchdown passes to Stepfan Taylor (two yards) and Michael Floyd (33 yards) as Arizona built a 14-0 lead against the Raiders. The Desert Angry Birds held the winless Raiders to 56 on the ground last week, while rushing for 123 in the contest. Arizona was 9-15 on third down conversions (0-1 on fourth) and kept the ball for 36:57, while the Silver and Black went 4-12, holding the pigskin for 23:03.

“Every Sunday gets bigger and bigger,” Cardinals tackle Jared Veldheer told the Arizona Republic. “It’s nothing but a good start. We need to keep the mindset of ‘We need to win every week.’”

The Desert Angry Birds hold a 55-54-5 lead in the series, which includes contests when the Cardinals were first in Chicago before moving to St. Louis and then Arizona and the Eagles have outscored Arizona/St. Louis/Chicago 2,435-2,222 in the 114 games played. Arizona’s last win over Philly came in 2012 in the desert by a final of 27-6. Philly won the meeting between the teams last year in week 13 in the City of Brotherly Love 24-21. The Eagles led 17-7 at halftime and then held off the Desert Angry Birds in the second half as they mounted a rally that fell short. Philly outrushed Arizona 105-90 and both Palmer and Foles were sacked five times and threw three TDs each in the contest. Palmer did manage to outpace Foles 302-257 but threw a pair of interceptions in the contest. Arizona on third down? 4-12 (1-2 on fourth down). Philly? 5-16 (1-1 on fourth). However… Arizona did manage to win the time of possession battle, nesting the ball away for 30:34, while Philly kept it for 29:26.

The Eagles were favored by 3 1/2 in the week 13 contest the Sunday after Thanksgiving and the over/under was 48 1/2. While Philly did win the contest, they barely missed the spread by 1/2 point and both the Eagles and Cards failed to reach the over/under, scoring only 45 points. The oddsmakers like the Cardinals in the desert as 2 1/2 point favorites with a 48 over/under. It’s possible that the 48 1/2 could be reached by halftime. The 2 1/2? Plausible. Both offenses can move the ball when they want to and both are contending for spots in the post-season party. Philly wins on the road in the desert and covers the 2 1/2 but Arizona will put up a fight in their nest.

Indianapolis (5-2) at Pittsburgh (4-3), 4:25 p.m. (CBS and DirecTV 716) Heinz Field. Luck. Roethlisberger. It’s an AFC arms race as two of the game’s best QBs meet in the Steel City in a late Sunday afternoon affair at Heinz Field.

Luck and the Colts are coming off a huge 27-0 shutout of Cincinnati last Sunday in the Hoosier State. The Colts held the Bengals to 32 yards rushing and sacked Andy Dalton three times in the contest. Indy led 10-0 at the break and never looked back or were threatened as Luck threw for 344 yards and a pair of TDs, while Indy ran for 171. Third down tries were nothing to write home about for either club (Cincy was 1-13, 0-1 on fourth down; Indy was 5-13) and time was on the side of the Colts, who kept the ball for 39:43, while the Bengals had it for 20:17.

Pittsburgh erased a 13-0 deficit against Houston last Monday night by scoring 24 points in nearly a five-minute span to take a 30-23 win over the Texans. Although the Steelers were held to 76 yards on the ground and gave up 132 (with Adrian Foster leading the way with 102), they took advantange of three Houston turnovers, which led to a pair of TDs in the contest. Roethlisberger threw for 265 yards and a pair of TDs with no picks in the contest inspite of being sacked three times. Pittsburgh was 5-14 on third down tries in the Monday night affair in western Pennsylvania, holding the ball for 32:06, while Houston was 4-12 and 2-2 on third and fourth down, keeping the ball for 27:54.

Pittsburgh leads the series with the Colts 14-6 (which includes contests when the Colts were in Baltimore) and have outscored their opponents 460-342. Pittsburgh won the last meeting between the two clubs in 2011 in the Hoosier State by a final of 23-20, while the Colts won in the Steel City in 2008 (with Peyton Manning under center) 24-20. Indy may be the road team but the oddsmakers like them as a 3 point favorite and a 49 1/2 over/under. The 3 makes sense as does the 49 1/2. Both are fighting for a playoff spot and both could face each other in post-season play. Indy will make it intersting but Pittsburgh wins at home again and covers the 3.

Oakland (0-6) at Cleveland (3-3), 4:25 p.m. (CBS and DirecTV 715) FirstEnergy Stadium. The Silver and Black travel eastward again and pay the Browns a visit along the shores of Lake Erie in a late Sunday afternoon contest.

Oakland suffered their sixth loss in as many contests in the 2014 campaign, this time to Arizona in Oakland by a 24-13 final.
The Raiders were held to 56 rushing yards, while allowing the Cardinals to run for 123 and Carson Palmer to toss a pair of TDs in the contest. Oakland trailed only by 4 at 14-10 at the break before Arizona pulled away in the second half to take the win. On third down tries, Arizona was 9-15 (0-1 on fourth) and kept the ball for 36:57, while the Silver and Black went 4-12, holding the pigskin for 23:03.

The Browns return to the shores of Lake Erie after they were ambushed by Jacksonville 24-6. Although Cleveland trailed 7-6 at the half, the Jaguars scored their remaining 17 second half points uncontested to take their first win of the 2014 campaign. Cleveland was held to 69 yards rushing, while the Jaguars ran for 185, with RB Denard Robinson leading all rushers with 127 and a TD. The Browns on third down tries were 4-17 and 0-3 on fourth down, keeping the ball for 28:27, while the Jaguars were 5-16 on third down conversions, keeping the ball for 31:33.

Cleveland’s favored by 7 and the over/under’s 43 1/2. The Browns aren’t that good and the Raiders aren’t that bad. Cleveland covers the 7 at home. Enough said.

Green Bay (5-2) at New Orleans (2-4), 8:30 p.m. (NBC) Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Rodgers vs. Brees. Bratwurst vs. Gumbo. Packers vs. Saints on Sunday night. Who could ask for anything more? Green Bay leaves the land of cheese and bratwurst to face a struggling New Orleans team in the Big Easy in primetime.

At Lambeau, the Packers led Carolina 28-3 at the half and never looked back as they beat the Panthers 38-17. Although Carolina did outscore Green Bay 14-10 in the final 30 minutes of action, Green Bay outrushed them 122-108 and the Packers sacked Cam Newton three times. Aaron Rodgers threw for 255 with three TDs and no interceptions in the contest, connecting with Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb on two of the scoring passes, while Eddie Lacy ran for another. Green Bay was 4-11 on third down conversions in the land of bratwurst and cheese, keeping the ball for only 29:49, while Carolina won the time of possession battle, keeping the ball for 30:11 and on third and fourth downs were 4-12 and 0-1.

New Orleans returns to the Big Easy in primetime after they blew a 17-14 lead in Detroit and lost in the final minutes in the Motor City to the Lions 24-23. After a scoreless first quarter, the Saints took a 10-3 lead with them to the locker room at the half before Detroit’s rally in the final 15 minutes of play. New Orleans saw their six-point lead in the fourth quarter evaporate into thin air when Matthew Stafford and WR Corey Fuller connected on a 5-yard TD pass with 1:48 left to play in regulation. New Orleans would eventually get the ball back but could not advance it and gave the ball back to Detroit on downs. As far as rushing the pigskin… let’s just say that fans of both were not exactly happy with the offense as Neither team breached the 100-yard barrier as New Orleans had 73, while Detroit 59. Brees outpaced Stafford 342-299 yards and each threw a pair of TDs in the contest. Detroit went 7-15 on third down tries, while the Saints were 3-12 and 1-2 on fourth down. Detroit ruled the clock, holding the ball for 32:18 to New Orleans’ 27:42.

Green Bay leads the series with the Saints 16-7, have outscored New Orleans 657-518 and have won the last two meetings with the boys from the Big Easy. The Packers’ last win in the series came in 2012 at Lambeau by a final of 28-27, while New Orleans last beat the Packers in the Big Easy in 2008 51-29.

When you have two QBs that can throw the ball at will and two teams that have a history of Super Bowls and it’s a Sunday night, it’s only fitting that this one is DRILL WORTHY. Having said that… (For those of you that know what The Drill is, you are excused. Everyone else, pay attention. We don’t want any rookie mistakes here, k?)

After you go to the 9:30 mass on Sunday (the 4:30 vigil mass on Saturday counts as a mass attended, people! Don’t make us send the nuns after you!), head to your favorite store (a trip to Wal Mart, Target, K-Mart or Costco counts) and get the vittles and the beverages (soda, beer, wine, coffee, et al… if you live in a state that allows the purchase of the beverages in question on Sunday) and invite the co-workers, the neighbors (including that really cute kindergarden teacher that knows what to do with a cover-2 defense) and your cousin Connie (remember her? She’s the one that’s been married twice that’s 56 and dates a 41-year old ex-Marine, who’s now a football coach at the high school in your town. She’s also the one that ate an entire Oreo cheesecake, two bags of Cool Ranch Doritos, two bacon cheeseburgers with blue cheese and chugged two 2-liter Cokes at your Super Bowl party last year and didn’t gain a pound. You look at her and say to yourself, “what the hell?”

The Saints are favored by 1 at home in the Big Easy and the over/under’s 55 1/2. Both numbers make a lot of sense. Both can score at will. It’s a matter of who will be up standing last. Packers pull off the upset in the Big Easy and cover the 1 but the Saints will put up a fight in their backyard.

Washington (2-5) at Dallas (6-1), 8:30 p.m. Monday (ESPN) AT&T Stadium. Week 8 concludes with a key NFC East divisional contest as Dallas hosts Washington on Monday night. The game marks the 16th meeting between the Cowboys and Redskins on Monday Night Football, the second-most frequent matchup in the 45-year history of the series (Raiders-Broncos, 17 times).

Even though these two teams haven’t been relevant in a while, they still don’t like each other.

Hatfields vs. McCoys.

Montagues vs. Capulets.

Sharks vs. Jets.

Dogs vs. Cats.

Yankees vs. Red Sox.

North vs. South.

Get the picture?

The Redskins earned a 19-17 win against Tennessee with a 22-yard field goal by Kai Forbath on the final play of the game. In his first action of the season, quarterback Colt McCoy completed 11 of 12 passes for 128 yards and a touchdown in the second half. He orchestrated a 10-play, 76-yard drive that culminated with Forbath’s game-winning kick. Washington outrushed Tennessee 100-76 in the win in Landover and outpassed the Titans 267-160 to take their second win of the season. Both Tennessee and Washington went 3-11 on third down conversions (the Titans were 1-1 on fourth down) and the clock was the ally of Tennessee, who held the ball for 30:56 to Washington’s 29:04.

“We needed a win bad,” Forbath told the Washington Post. “Colt stepped in, put me in a great position. I couldn’t ask for better field position to kick the game-winner, so hats off to our offense for getting us there.”

The Cowboys improved to 6-1 – the best record in the NFL – with a 31-21 home win over the New York Giants in Week 7. Running back De Marco Murray (128 rushing yards, one touchdown) has rushed for at least 100 yards in each of the Cowboys’ seven games so far, surpassing Pro Football Hall of Famer Jim Brown (six games in 1958) for the longest such streak in NFL history to begin a season.

“I think we did this as a group, so it’s hard for me to accept this individually,” says Murray of his record-breaking streak. “The offensive line is a huge part of this… the tight ends, the receivers, the entire coaching staff. But I definitely give a lot of credit to those guys. But there’s a lot of hard work that needs to be done. It’s a long season.” Dallas broke a 14-14 halftime tie with the Giants in Arlington and outscored Eli and the G-Men 17-7 in the final 30 minutes of play. The Cowboys rushed for 156 yards in the contest, while New York tallied 104, with Tony Romo outpassing Manning 279-248 in the contest. Dallas was 9-14 on third down tries, holding the ball for 33:49, while the Giants were 5-13 and 1-1 on third and fourth downs, keeping the ball for 26:11.

Including contests that were played when the Cowboys were in the Cotton Bowl in Dallas, they lead the series with their hated rivals 64-40-2 and have outscored the Redskins 2,429-2,026. Dallas swept the series with Washington in 2013 (Washington’s last win over Dallas came in 2012 in Landover by a final of 28-18 in a winner-take-all affair in week 17). In week six in Arlington, Dallas led Washington 14-6 at the half and then outscored the Redskins 17-10 for the 31-16 win in the Lone Star STate. Although they were held to 48 yards rushing, alllowing Washington to run for 216, Dallas did manage to sack Robert Griffin III three times in the contest, while forcing a pair of turnovers in the game. Third down tries? Washington was 8-16 (0-1 on fourth down), while Dallas was 5-12 and the clock was on the side of the Redskins at 34:32 to Dallas’ 25:28.

Game two of the series moved to Landover in week 16 and it was a much closer affair but the Cowboys pulled off the sweep over Washington, leaving with a 24-23 win. Leading 14-6 at the half, Dallas held off a late Washington charge as the Redskins outscored the Cowboys in the second half 17-10. Again, the winning Cowboys were held under 100 yards (95), while Washington ran for 100 and Dallas survived turning the ball over twice in the win. Dallas was 4-10 on third down tries (2-2 on fourth down tries, while Washington was 7-16 and 0-1 in the same columns. Once again, the Redskins won the clock battle, keeping the ball for 33:47, while Dallas had it for 26:13.

Dallas was favored in both contests (the Cowboys were favored by 5 1/2 with a 52 over/under in week six, winning by 15 to cover the spread. Both teams failed to match the 52, tallying only 47; in week 16, they were favored by 3 but won by only one and the over/under was 54. Both teams again failed to reach the over/under as they would score 47.) and are favored at home by 9 with a 50 1/2 over/under. Washington has been up and down at best, while the Cowboys may have found their stride at the right time. Still, it is a rivalry game and these two teams don’t like each other very much. Washington may give Romo and Dallas problems in prime time (Dallas is 43-32 on Monday nights, while Washington’s 27-36) but Dallas wins in the Lone Star State and could cover the 9.

While most schools have already started and others will start after Labor Day, a letter was written to teachers in Sandy Hook. It wasn’t just any letter. It was a letter written by the mother of one of the young victims. It was a letter that needs to be read by everyone.

Nebla Marquez-Greenhad is the mother of two children that attended Sandy Hook Elementary; they were both present the day of the shooting, but tragically her daughter Ana Grace was killed in the massacre. Her letter, which was posted on the Education Week website, is so powerful. It goes out to all teachers but anyone that works with children, whether they’re teachers, paraprofessionals, volunteers, coaches, et all as well as the gun right zealots need to read this.

Here is the entire letter, courtesy of the Education Week website.

“As another school year begins and old routines settle back into place, I wanted to share my story in honor of the teachers everywhere who care for our children.  

I lost my 6-year-old daughter Ana Grace on December 14, 2012, in the rampage at Sandy Hook Elementary School. My son, who was in the building and heard the shooting, survived.  

While waiting in the firehouse that day to hear the official news that our daughter was dead, my husband and I made promises to ourselves, to each other and to our son. We promised to face the future with courage, faith and love.

As teachers and school employees begin this new year, my wish for you is that same courage, faith and love.

It takes guts to be a teacher. Six brave women gave their lives trying to protect their students at Sandy Hook. Other teachers were forced to run from the building, stepping over the bodies of their friends and colleagues and they came right back to work.

When I asked my son’s teacher why she returned, she responded, “Because they are my kids. And my students need me now more than ever.” She sent daily updates on my son’s progress, from his behavior to what he’d eaten for lunch. And four months later, when my son finally smiled one day after school, I asked him about it. His response? “Mom. My teacher is so funny. I had an epic day.”

While I pray you will never find yourself in the position of the teachers at Sandy Hook, your courage will support students like my son, who have lived through traumas no child should have to.

Your courage will support students who are left out and overlooked, like the isolated young man who killed my daughter. At some point he was a young, impressionable student, often sitting all alone at school. You will have kids facing long odds for whom your smile, your encouraging word, and your willingness to go the extra mile will provide the comfort and security they need to try again tomorrow.  

When you Google “hero,” there should be a picture of a principal, a school lunch worker, a custodian, a reading specialist, a teacher or a bus monitor. Real heroes don’t wear capes. They work in America’s schools.  

Being courageous requires faith. It took faith to go back to work at Sandy Hook after the shooting. Nobody had the answers or knew what would come tomorrow but they just kept going. Every opportunity you have to create welcoming environments in our schools where parents and students feel connected counts.
Have faith that your hard work is having a profound impact on your students. Of the 15,000 personal letters I received after the shooting, only one stays at my bedside. It’s from my high school English teacher, Robert Buckley.  

But you can’t be courageous or step out on faith without a deep love for what you do.  

Parents are sending their precious children to you this fall. Some will come fully prepared, and others not. They will come fed and with empty bellies. They will come from intact homes and fractured ones. Love them all.  

When my son returned to school in January, I thought I was going to lose my mind. Imagine the difficulty in sending your surviving child into a classroom when you lost your baby in a school shooting. We sent him because we didn’t want him to be afraid.

We sent him because we wanted him to understand that while our lives would never be the same, our lives still needed to move forward. 

According to the 2011-12 National Survey of Children’s Health, nearly half of America’s children will have suffered at least one childhood trauma before the age of 18. They need your love.  

A few weeks before the shooting, Ana Grace and I shared a special morning. Lunches were packed and clothes were picked out the night before, so we had extra time to snuggle. And while I lay in bed with my beautiful caramel princess, she sensed that I was distracted and asked, “What’s the matter, Mom?” I remember saying to her, “Nothing, baby. It’s just work.” She looked at me for a very long time with a thoughtful stare, then she told me, “Don’t let them suck your fun circuits dry, Mom.”  

As you begin this school year, remember Ana Grace. Walk with courage, with faith, and with love. And don’t let them suck your fun circuits dry.”  

This school year, pray for the teachers, the children and the parents. Keep everyone in your thoughts and may God protect them. Life and love are precious gifts; never take them for granted. 

6-year old Ana Grace will never get to read that letter, play with her classmates on the playground or be in a Christmas pagent. Her short life on this Earth came to a tragic end the week before Christmas when a gunman with nothing on his agenda but anger and hate came to her school and shot 26 people, of which 20 were her classmates and six teachers. There needs to be a civil and serious dialouge about guns and school violence. 20 kids will never know the experience of meeting new teachers and classmates, they’ll never get to trade lunches in the lunchrooms, go to recess or fingerpaint. A madman that pulled the trigger will never face justice because he chose to be a coward and take himself out of the picture.

While there are some of us that are saying that guns are bad, it’s not the gun that is the problem. It’s the person that pulls the trigger that is the problem. We need to work together to strenghten the laws that are on the books, not weaken them. The right to own a gun is not the issue. The issue is that there are those that do not deserve to have a weapon, due to a criminal record, mental instablity or a dishonest gun salesman that put money over lives and doesn’t do the background checks.

26 lives lost. Gone. Never to walk this Earth again. The best thing we as a community can do is to make sure our children are safe and if it means changing a law that benefits the living while making sure that law-abiding gun owners have their rights protected, then so be it. It’s not about taking away guns. It’s about keeping them out of the hands of those that don’t deserve or need them.

As children walk into their schools, whether they are public, private or parochial this Fall, let’s remember those that will not walk into a school because of gun violence, including those in Sandy Hook and hope they walk out of them better than we dropped them off in the morning, fed, educated, loved.

And safe.