Twenty six and Two

At 9:30 on a sunny Friday morning in small-town Connecticut, a teacher heard a sequence of unfamiliar sounds … pop, pop, pop. Fireworks? Gunshots? Both were unlikely noises coming from a classroom down the hall. But it was indeed gunfire. That teacher and her students survived, but minutes later twenty six people lay dead; twenty of them were children. The school principal and the school psychologist were among the dead adults.

How does something like this happen? Mass shootings are hard enough to understand, but it is even worse when children are targeted. Schools in Columbine and at Virginia Tech, a movie theatre, a hospital, a shopping mall … none of it makes sense. Yet we try to process and explain. If the school psychologist wasn’t a victim in yesterday’s massacre, he or she would be analyzing the shooter.

What leads a 20-year-old male (I refuse to call him a man) to kill his mother, then go to a classroom and kill twenty elementary school children? And don’t give me that “God’s will” crap – even on a bad day, God is not a psychopathic killer. Can we learn something from this? Usually I would say yes, but the only lesson I see here is the need for increased disaster planning in schools.

I grew up thinking school was a safe place. I can’t imagine how I would feel now as a student … or a parent. And one of my initial thoughts related to the teachers. My sister and one of my best friends and my neighbor across the street and many other people I know are teachers. I am almost afraid to ask for their reaction to the latest school shootings. Are they ever afraid to enter their classrooms after an incident like this?

The pro gun and anti gun people are already shouting out, rekindling two sides of the gun control debate. My usual conundrum … I can see both sides. The ‘guns don’t kill, people do’ argument is flawed. While it is true that a determined psycho will find a way to kill even if guns aren’t available, our culture accepts guns, so acquiring them is easy. Guns DO kill people. On the other side of the debate … the guns used yesterday were legally obtained and registered. In fact, they were owned by the shooter’s mother. Gun control laws would not have stopped this one. Would less acceptance of guns in our culture have helped? Who knows?

At 9:45 on a sunny Friday morning in small-town Connecticut parents learn there has been a mass shooting incident at their kid’s school. They drop everything and rush there to find their children. Anxious eyes scan the crowd looking for familiar little faces. “Mommy!” Whew! But for some it’s more like “we need you to come with us to identify ….”