For now, we mourn.
We grieve and we hurt and we ponder the level of depravity required to perpetrate such an unfathomable act.
That, perhaps, is the most difficult part — trying to make sense of something utterly nonsensical. On Tuesday, it was the death of two innocents plus the gunman at Clackamas Town Center, deaths that delivered the pain of gun violence close to home. On Friday, that pain expanded to national proportions — and it became excruciating.
As humans, we are driven by logic; yet there is nothing logical, there is no conceivable reasoning, that could lead an adult to enter a school and systematically gun down 20 young schoolchildren among his 26 victims at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn.
There was an additional victim at the murderer’s home — his mother. And there was the murderer himself, the final death in the inexplicable burst of carnage.
Our hearts go out to their friends and families. But, especially, they go out to the parents who lost children; to the parents whose lives were shattered by a madman; to the parents who must return home to Christmas presents that never will be opened.
There is, perhaps, no greater pain, no more cruel barb the world can puncture us with, than the loss of a child. To imagine so many parents simultaneously enduring so much suffering is, frankly, unimaginable.
“This evening, Michelle and I will do what I know every parent in America will do, which is hug our children a little tighter, and we’ll tell them that we love them, and we’ll remind each other how deeply we love one another,” President Obama said in addressing the nation.
For now, that is all that any of us can do. But eventually, there will be questions and debates and national discussions. About gun violence. About mental health. About a sense of community that is fractured yet must be repaired for us to remain strong as a people.
The debate about gun control was rekindled by opportunists within hours of the shooting. It is a discussion that must be held, yet discussions are at their most productive when not fueled by the rawest of emotions. But the time must come. Among the tragedies of Newtown is that there always has seemed to be an excuse for avoiding the discussion — until the next tragedy delays it further.
But equally important will be discussions about mental health care in this country. We’ll wonder whether Adam Lanza provided any clues to the level of evil that lurked within him, and we likely will be disappointed with the lack of answers. Evil rarely announces itself ahead of time.
While gun control discussions will seize the headlines, mental health reforms might be a more direct route to preventing another Newtown. Or another Columbine. Or another Aurora. Or another Clackamas. The list is growing too long for the nation to idly wait for the next incident.
Soon, we will begin the long and painful healing process. Even for those of us some 3,000 miles away from Connecticut, Friday’s massacre hit much too close to home. Because it could have happened anywhere, it could have happened to any of us. Next time, it might, and it is that knowledge that should lead us to hug our children and grandchildren, our nieces and nephews, a little harder and a little longer while remembering to truly appreciate the gifts that we have.
But for now, we mourn.