"There's a bit of magic in everything, and some loss to even things out." -Lou Reed

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Before and After: The Tragedy in Newtown



I don’t have anything new to add to this conversation. I don’t have any wise words about why a young man chose to kill his mother, then 26 innocent people at an elementary school, then take his own life. I have assumptions regarding mental illness, pain, being at an age when serious mental illness often takes its strongest grip, and access to guns that should only exist in the military or on the movie screen. But those are assumptions. They help me reason through moments when I want so badly to understand, but in the end, they are just guesses.

Nothing in recent memory has upset me as much as the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut. I have cried when watching television coverage, I have wept when reading articles detailing events that no kindergartner or first grader should ever experience. Most troubling, out of nowhere over the past week, I have shed tears when simply thinking about all that happened. How will the parents that lost children ever get those images out of their heads? How do they somehow find peace after losing a child so senselessly? How will the surviving children ever again see school as anything but a war zone- a temple of fear- a place of loss and terror? How will the community ever lift this cloud of grief? How do you contemplate, plan, and attend countless funerals in such a tiny town- all leading up to the Christmas holiday?

One thing that struck me from the beginning, on that Friday when the news was just breaking, was what school was for me at that age. It was a safe haven. I absolutely adored kindergarten especially, but all through my elementary years, school was my safe place, my favorite place. I knew what to expect, there were no unplanned shifts in tension or trouble as there were at home. I still had my own anxieties, but they had nothing to do with not feeling safe or worrying gunmen might come into the building and harm us. It’s bad enough for the children that have been exposed to the news about Newtown, and then must return to their school building and hallways, trying to readjust to the new normal the world has created. But how in the world will the children that survived this massacre in Newtown, who actually witnesses their teachers and friends murdered in front of their eyes, ever wall the hallways of any school now or later in life, without flashbacks and fear, looking over their shoulder on the way to the library for lurking dangers?

This breaks my heart. Their innocence is gone. Children are thankfully resilient and mighty, and have an ability to face the sadness life gives them and make it part of their new being in a magical way. But, I fear this is almost too much to ask, even of the most resilient child.

What I am thankful for in all of this madness is that we, as a country, are finally talking about gun control. To be clear, as I always try to be, I am not in favor of taking away all guns from everyone. I only want automatic assault weapons that have no business in anyone’s hands off the market. Illegal. Nearly impossible to get. Will it solve all the problems? No. Will we never again have another tragic shooting in a school or workplace? Sadly, I doubt that will be the outcome. But, I believe strongly that it will lessen the numbers and instances. One other thing I have learned is that if you are on the other side of the gun argument, I cannot change what you think, and you cannot change my view. I am not going to try here. At least we are all talking. At least I am seeing a shift in Washington, and I believe newer laws and restrictions will come out of this tragedy to make a difference.

This tragedy changed things because so many of the victims were so young, so innocent, so defenseless. But honestly, in the face of an automatic weapon, we are all defenseless. I couldn’t help but think about the parents of victims of other school shootings such as Columbine, other parents who have fought for gun control after the loss of their child in such a senseless manner. I am sure these parents are happy to finally see gun control discussed, but I wonder if they aren’t thinking—“why wasn’t my child’s death important enough to make this happen?” It’s a fair question. Maybe we wouldn’t be in such pain right now, maybe we wouldn’t have lost 20 six year olds if this had been addressed earlier.

After Columbine, I remember there was a lot of anger and hatred for the gunmen. Everyone was lashing out at their parents, assuming they were somehow responsible, that they knew everything their children were planning, or that they were so neglectful that this tragedy left blood on their hands. I was part of that group that could not believe the parents had no idea what was about to happen—the weapons, the planning, the anger. For a long time, I kept that opinion. Then, I read Susan Klebold’s heart-wrenching essay. Later, I read the book Columbine by Dave Cullen, and I realized that the truth is far murkier.

After the tragedy in Newtown, I didn’t see the same public reaction of absolute hatred for the gunman. I saw the reaction more towards the true cause of any tragedy like this—mental illness and gun control. This is where the concerns should be. Until we figure out what is breaking people, what is bringing them to their knees and to the point of making a decision to kill innocent people in large numbers, we won’t be able to prevent future tragedies.

I wish I knew an answer. I wish I could turn back time and bring these tiny children back to their families and make the community whole. I wish I didn’t think about what their last moments were like- how confusing and terrifying everything must have been. How, I am sure, they wanted their mommies and daddies in such scary circumstances. I wish their parents didn’t have to have those same thoughts, which must torture them in ways that are unimaginable.

All I can do now is hope for their healing. Hope for some peace in a tiny town that couldn’t have seen evil approaching in such a horrible, final way. Hope that whatever change we bring about as a country helps guide some lost souls to a place of healing instead of lashing out at the world in such deadly actions.

Truly, all that is left to do is hope.


3 comments:

Eva Gallant December 23, 2012 at 5:00 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Leximou December 25, 2012 at 5:10 PM  

I must agree with you about assault weapons, but must also write. This sick young man would have found a way to do what he did one way or another. His mind was not functioning correctly, and knives, or a ball bat would have resulted in something very similar to the terrible results. This country needs to address the people BEHIND these outrages. The mentally ill and unstable have little to NO resources available to their care takers - the insurance companies shun them, the ERs where they are often taken can only extend band-aids. Until this, the main problem here, is addressed, removing any type of guns will not halt the carnage that the mentally unstable are determined to do.

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