WAPAKONETA — Larry Shaffer couldn’t believe what he was seeing on his television on Friday.
“We have seven children and sixteen grandchildren and the last one is 6 years old. This affected me worse than 9/11,” Shaffer, 69, of Wapakoneta, said Monday. “With 9/11, they hated the country. This was just a man that was out of control.”
Shaffer, a former pastor, converted a portion of the front of his home, located at 302 Stinebaugh Drive, to a memorial for the children and victims in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting that happened on Friday in Newtown, Conn.
Now he is inviting local children and their parents to take a moment to remember, honor and mourn the loss of the victims.
“I just felt that I know my 6-year-old granddaughter scribbles, writes cards and notes to everybody and so I thought, ‘Well maybe parents have a child that saw this on the news,’ and wanted to do a little something,” he said, standing in front of the memorial. “So they can put a flower down there, a note, a toy, stick cards on the wall back there.”
With the severity of the situation, Shaffer said he wanted to give parents an outlet and a way to explain what happened.
“I’m going to put a little note out there saying that if your child’s having a problem or you’re having a problem, feel free to knock on my door and we’ll talk,” Shaffer said. “I thought that little kids, they have an innate sense of sorrow for other kids when something like this happens. And maybe they don’t even say anything to their parents. I wouldn’t even recommend that kids watch this stuff but if they’ve caught a wind of it, and ask questions, if they bring the little kids out there, they could express themselves.”
Even though the shooting happened nearly 700 miles away and if only a few children contribute to the memorial, he said it helps those few get a sense of what actually happened.
“Our community is only half the size of what the community was where it happened and I just felt like we need a place where kids can go and maybe just say, ‘I’m sorry,’” he said. “We’re [more than] 600 miles away, but that kid doesn’t recognize the mileage.”