Wizards center Emeka Okafor played three years at the University of Connecticut, a state he still calls his “second home.”
His wife, Ilana, grew up in Danbury, Conn., 12 miles west of the small town of Newtown, where on Friday 26 people, including 20 elementary school children, were shot to death by 20-year-old Adam Lanza.
“I didn’t personally know anybody involved, but my wife and her sister knew some people who were affected,” Okafor said Monday. “It’s a shocker.”
It’s been nearly nine years since Okafor, now 30, led the Huskies to an NCAA title in 2004. But he and his wife remain connected to the state that is trying to heal from one of the nation’s worst tragedies.
“I was watching CNN [Sunday] night and the President was giving his speech and they had the [memorial] service in Newtown,” Okafor said. “Just seeing everybody there it makes you think about what really happened.
“When you see the pictures of the kids and their ages it breaks your heart. They were defenseless children. As a hopeful, soon-to-be-parent one day you want to drop your kids off at school and think they’re safe. That’s the last thing you think will happen. The absolute last thing. It’s just very, very random. You just shake your head.”
The Wizards were given the day off on Sunday and Okafor spent the afternoon at a local movie theatre. He said he couldn’t help but think of the summer tragedy in which 12 people were killed and 58 others injured in a movie theatre in Aurora, Colorado.
“I was thinking, ‘What if someone just came in here and started going crazy?’ You never know,” he said. “There are a lot of copycats out there. It’s a very, very sad situation.”
Okafor said that like many Americans, his prayers go out to the families of Newtown, Conn.
“Connecticut is a second home to me,” he said. “I had three great years there, the fans were great to me and I have fond memories of Connecticut. But to be honest, a tragedy of that magnitude could have happened anywhere. It makes you just shake your head and say, ‘Why?’”