ATLANTA - No one knows what to do at a time like this, 27 lives snuffed out in an instant by a madman's rage. There are no certain soothing words. No foolproof acts of kindness.
But New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz tried on Sunday afternoon. Oh, how he tried to ease the unimaginable pain of one devastated Newtown, Conn., family.
In the hours before Cruz and his defending Super Bowl champion Giants teammate were crushed 34-0 by the Atlanta Falcons inside the Georgia Dome, he did all he could to honor 6-year-old Jack Pinto, one of 20 6- and 7-year-olds gunned down at Newtown's Sandy Hook Elementary School on Friday morning.
He wrote, "Jack Pinto, My Hero," on one of his cleats and "R.I.P. Jack Pinto" on the other. On the back of his gloves, he penned, "Jack Pinto This one is 4 U."
He even briefly called the little boy's family to tell them how honored he was to learn that Pinto will likely be buried in a Giants No. 80 jersey, which is Cruz's number.
"I was fighting back tears," Cruz said afterward. "You could hear everybody crying in the background. But to be his favorite player, I just felt like I needed to do something."
We all need to do something. We need to force our do-little government to enact far tougher gun laws, beginning with stringent background checks and ending with a ban on semi-automatic weapons. We need to turn their fiscal cliff into a physical cliff and push them all off it if they don't.
But that's another rant for another day.
For this day and this week and each day of the 12 days of Christmas yet to come, we need to both pray for Newtown and pray that there are no more Newtown tragedies.
"To have this happen, it's almost beyond explanation," said Giants coach Tom Coughlin before the game. "It's very difficult to get past the senseless killing of children."
Afterward, not wanting to make excuses, he added, "There was no one that could escape and no way it couldn't affect everyone, but that is no excuse for how we played."
But what if Newtown was an explanation rather than an excuse? Maybe the Giants should have been able to overcome this. Maybe.
But Newtown isn't just 60 miles from the Big Apple. Most NFL players have children roughly the age of those murdered at Sandy Hook. Children in elementary school.
Children who, in the gripping words of President Obama, "had their entire lives ahead of them -- birthdays, graduations, weddings, kids of their own ... beautiful little kids."
The President soon added, "Among the fallen were also teachers ... men and women who devoted their lives to helping our children fulfill their dreams."
Dreams such as Pinto's apparent hope to one day follow Cruz into the NFL.
"This is just another example of what impact athletes can have on kids," said Cruz. "I wanted to do something special for him today, something special for his family to let them know I was thinking of him and all the other kids, but it didn't work out that way."
Asked what that might have been, he said, "Probably pointed to the sky if I'd scored. And I'd have probably done a little dance, because that's probably one of the things he liked about me."
The Giants did something special as a team. They wrote the letters S-H-E-S with black Sharpies down down the red stripe on the back of their helmets to honor Sandy Hook Elementary School.
Cruz said he hopes to find time to meet the family later this week. He said the aftershock of the killing spree caused him to spend Friday night sleeping with his 11-month-old daughter Kennedy, "A night I'll cherish forever."
My wife teaches fourth grade. My youngest daughter is 6, my oldest 8. Imagining the world they may reside in as adults left me sleepless most of Friday night.
But I don't live in the Northeast, battered by Hurricane Sandy two months ago, horrified by Sandy Hook Elementary today.
"There's been a lot going on," said Cruz, a New Jersey native who played his college ball at UMass. "It's tough, really tough. But it's a part of life."
Beautiful little kids awaiting Santa Claus should be a part of life. Not burying 20 of them -- including one in the jersey of his favorite NFL player -- one week from Christmas.