In no way can we share the depth of anguish of the parents and loved ones of those precious children who were mowed down by a madman who brought a weapon of war into a garden of light and learning and ripped those innocent lives to shreds. But, as journalists, it is left to us to find the words, the facts, the feelings to explain why these children died. So far, it has dumbfounded us. We can’t find the words or puzzle out a reason why this overwhelming grief has been visited upon us.
We have no idea what it was that drove Adam Lanza into abandoning two essential instincts of being human that may very well be hardwired into the human species: The instinct for loving his mother; and the equally inherent drive to protect children. But it is abundantly clear that those basic roots of the human spirit had somehow deserted his soul.
When you make your living working with words, and know the power that they can sometimes have, you find yourself overwhelmed by events like Sandy Hook. There is no vocabulary, no dictionary, no trick of rhetoric that can adequately describe the horror that engulfed that school and the people in it. Those of us who watched these events unfold, and knew that it was our job to make sense of it, knew early on that it couldn’t be done.
It has been days since and we are no more close to an explanation now than we were when the reports from Sandy Hook began to trickle in. By now, millions of words have been used to describe what happened, why it happened and what we can do to prevent it in the future.
But we have to start, and the first thing we have to do is help our children regain their confidence in our ability to comfort them even as we cannot completely protect them. The father of a 9-year-old boy told us that his son asked him if he would be shot if he went to school. How can you comfort your child when the only honest answer you have is, “I don’t know.”
The real challenge for parents in the aftermath of Sandy Hook is restoring a sense of security in our schools and in our children. We can start by spending more time with them and being honest with them. Our children know that something dreadful has happened and they are afraid. We have to tell them that we are afraid as well, and then assure them that we are doing everything we can to be less afraid.
Frank Picozzi – who you will remember for the spectacular light show he puts on every Christmas – wrote to us Saturday morning. He was as disturbed as the rest of us by the events of Friday morning, but he seems to have already witnessed some of the resilience kids and their parents are capable of:
“Last night was very strange at the display. I struggled all day to decide whether or not to even run it because of the tragedy. I was in touch with all my fellow extreme decorators all over the country via the Internet. They were having the same thoughts. It came down to Friday night always being a big night for kids to come so just about all of us decided to do it. Usually on Friday there's a huge amount of traffic right from the start but this wasn't the case last night. It was dead for a long time. Then about seven o'clock people started to come, slowly at first and then it got to be a mob scene. Almost all the parents got out of the car with the kids and they seemed to enjoy being together as a family more than usual. I think the events of yesterday really made parents need to be with and love their children last night. There was a very special ‘vibration’ in the air. I'm so glad I decided to run the lights last night.”
So are we.