The past two months have been tough on the tri-state area, but what happened Friday morning in Newtown, Conn., was a tragedy beyond words ... a tragedy that should have never happened. Taking a life is awful and wrong ... killing a child is unforgivable. For New York Giants' wide receiver Victor Cruz, the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School hit a lot closer than he could imagine.
Cruz learned via Twitter that one of the victims, six-year-old Jack Pinto, idolized him. He was a huge Giants fan and Cruz was his favorite player. His parents said Pinto loved Cruz so much that they were planning to lay him to rest in his Cruz jersey. According to the New York Daily News, when hearing about this, Cruz reached out to Pinto's family over the phone in the team's Atlanta hotel.
"I was in the hotel [in Atlanta] and as I was talking to them I was fighting back tears. You could hear everybody in the background crying as well. It was tough to listen to," Cruz said.
The Giants as a team were paying tribute to the victims at Sandy Hook by writing the initials "S.H.E.S." on the backs of their helmets. Cruz wanted to pay a special tribute to Pinto by writing his name on his cleats along with "Jack Pinto, my hero" and "This one is 4 U!" Cruz posted the photos of his cleats on his Twitter account.
Unfortunately, the Giants were not able to get the victory on Sunday over the Atlanta Falcons as they were crushed 34-0. Cruz was distraught that he was unable to get a win in honor of Pinto and the rest of the victims. Cruz plans to travel to Newtown some time this week to pay his respects and bring Pinto's family the cleats and gloves he wore on Sunday as a gift.
In that phone call from his hotel before the game, Cruz also spoke to Pinto's 11-year-old brother. He tried to give him some reassuring words.
"He could barely speak to me. I was just talking to him, telling him to stay strong, to stay positive and I'm going to help the family in any way I can," Cruz said.
Cruz is the father of an 11-month-old daughter and I'm sure he as well as other parents hugged their kids a little tighter this weekend. For Cruz to go out of his way to try and help this family find comfort and healing speaks volumes about his character. It's been an emotional weekend for everyone across the country. I am not a parent, but I am human. I've worked in child care for eight years and the thought of losing one of those kids is horrific. Children are some of the most precious things in this world and no parent should have to bury their own child.
Though we look at sports as a way to escape from reality, it's times like this where we're tragically reminded that there are things in life that are much more important than football.
Six-year-old Jack Pinto is scheduled to be buried today in his No. 80 Victor Cruz jersey. Keep him and his family in your thoughts and prayers, as well as the rest of the families that are suffering this holiday season.
--You can follow Kelsey O'Donnell on Twitter @KelsODonnell