The New York Times reports Newtown: In our view, the New York Times has done some very good work reporting from Newtown this week.
Granted, the paper has had dramatic material to work with. Yesterday, Joseph Berger reported the funeral of Anne Marie Murphy, a 52-year-old mother of four who worked as a teacher's aide at Sandy Hook Elementary School:
BERGER (12/21/12): The funeral was one of at least six for victims on Thursday. Other services were for Catherine Hubbard, Jesse Lewis, Benjamin Wheeler and Allison Wyatt, all 6 years old, and Lauren Gabrielle Rousseau, a 30-year-old teacher.As we’ve read these descriptions this week, we’ve thought of the endless disparagements rained on American teachers in the past decade or so. If we could only get rid of these people with their infernal teachers unions! If we could only replace them with more of those great Princeton kids!
Mrs. Murphy’s husband, Michael, also spoke, and, according to several mourners, remembered her as a mother for whom her children—Colleen, Kelly, Paige and Thomas—were “the four pillars of her life.” The Rev. William T. Holt, a Dominican priest at Holy Innocents Parish in nearby Pleasantville, said Mr. Murphy revealed that his wife had prepared gifts for every child in her classroom but was never able to give them.
Mrs. Murphy’s father, Dr. Hugh McGowan, a retired dentist whose office was up the road from the church, told The Hartford Courant that the authorities had informed him that his daughter’s body was found covering a group of children’s bodies, as if she were trying to shield them. Mrs. Murphy’s actions were corroborated by the family of Dylan Hockley, which released a statement saying, “Dylan had died in the loving arms of his favorite teacher.”
“We take great comfort in knowing that Dylan was not alone when he died but was wrapped in the arms of his amazing aide, Anne Marie Murphy,” the statement said. “Dylan loved Mrs. Murphy so much and pointed at her picture on our refrigerator every day.”
We don't mean that as a disparagement of Princeton students, including those who go into teaching. Earlier, Berger’s reporting made us think of a great fictional speech:
BERGER: It was an indication of the Newtown massacre’s impact that the officiant at the Mass of Christian Burial was Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, the archbishop of New York. Cardinal Dolan did not know the Murphy family, but Mrs. Murphy was the only one among the 26 people killed whose family church was in the archdiocese; the cardinal, an aide said, “wanted to express his solidarity.”Cardinal Dolan won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. But as we read this part of Berger’s report, we thought of the great speech delivered by Father Barry, the Karl Malden character in On the Waterfront.
“I never had the honor of meeting Annie, so I’m at a disadvantage,” Cardinal Dolan told mourners. “Then again, I never had the honor of physically meeting Jesus, yet my union with him is the most important thing in my life. And because I know Jesus, I feel as if I know Anne Marie McGowan Murphy quite well.
“Like Jesus, Annie was an excellent teacher. Like him, she had a favored place in her big, tender heart for children, especially those with struggles. Like Jesus, Annie laid down her life for her friends.”
The Malden character is also reacting to killings. As he is pelted with fruit by thugs, he raises a type of religious question: Is Jesus Christ here on the waterfront?
Father Barry, On the Waterfront: Some people think the Crucifixion only took place on Calvary. They better wise up.Is Christ down here on the waterfront? We don’t have religious beliefs ourselves. But we thought of Father Barry’s fictional speech when we read the words of Cardinal Dolan. (To read the full speech from the film, just click here.)
Taking Joey Doyle's life to stop him from testifying is a crucifixion. And dropping a sling on Kayo Dugan because he was ready to spill his guts tomorrow—that's a crucifixion. And every time the mob puts the crusher on a good man—tries to stop him from doing his duty as a citizen—it's a crucifixion. And anybody who sits around and lets it happen, keeps silent about something he knows has happened, shares the guilt of it just as much as the Roman soldier who pierced the flesh of Our Lord to see if He was dead.
Boys, this is my church! And if you don't think Christ is down here on the waterfront, you've got another guess coming!
Every morning when the hiring boss blows his whistle, Jesus stands alongside you in the shape-up. He sees why some of you get picked and some of you get passed over. He sees the family men worrying about getting the rent and getting food in the house for the wife and the kids. He sees you selling your souls to the mob for a day's pay.
And what does Christ think of the easy-money boys who do none of the work and take all of the gravy? And how does he feel about the fellows who wear $150 suits and diamond rings, on your union dues and your kickback money? And how does He, who spoke up without fear against every evil, feel about your silence?
According to the Hockley family, they have taken great comfort in knowing that their son was not alone when he died—in knowing that he “died in the loving arms of his favorite teacher.” All week long, reports like these have made us think of the giant silence which has met the endless disparagement of American teachers—disparagement which has often come from high-ranking establishment sources.
In his fictional speech from On the Waterfront, Father Barry challenged such silence.
In the past several decades, our team has been good at displaying such silence—most recently, to cite one example, through the giant silence with which we met the attacks on Susan Rice. We’re also quite good at going on TV to pretend that we stood and fought like tigers.
Is Jesus Christ down here on the waterfront? Truthfully, not so much.