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Saturday, December 15, 2012

A Glimmer of Hope Amidst Despair and Broken Hearts...

Parents were heard crying out hysterically, "Why?... Why?"  Nobody seemed to have an answer.

Others were inconsolable and seen hugging their children or one another through wails and tears.

Even veteran law enforcers, who are used to seeing some of the most gruesome crime scenes ever imaginable, were distraught and some evidently overwhelmed.

This was not just a crime scene but a massacre, and not just a massacre, if that could be minimized in any way, but the massacre of innocent children; six and seven-year-olds, as well as several teachers and administrators.  The bloody scene was so disturbing that surviving students, who were escorted out of the school by police and teachers, were told to close their eyes and hold on to the person in front of them.  

After the dust had settled at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, Connecticut on a cool sunny winter's day Friday morning, twenty kids were dead and so were eight adults, including six at the school, the shooter and his mother at her home.

As one parent, who was able to pick up her child from a makeshift command post at a nearby fire station, said in a television interview, "Twenty parents were told their children were dead.  It was awful."

Awful may not begin to describe the raw emotions and despair.  And, that's not including the husbands, wives, and children of the slain adults, and the siblings, relatives and close friends of both.

According to reports, the 20-year-old shooter, Adam Lanza, got up that morning, killed his mother at their house a few miles from the school.  He then drove to the elementary with three weapons, two handguns and a semi-automatic riffle, that belonged to his mother, who was a kindergarten teacher at Sandy Hook, and, dress in dark military-like fatigues and body armor, broke his way into the building shortly after the doors were locked down and classes had started. 

Witnesses say they heard screaming and then a barrage of shots.  The victims never had a chance.

While we have seen it before in Columbine, Aurora and Virginia Tech (to name a few), you have to think about what state of mind can someone be in to see helpless, in this case, six-year-old, children and adults crying and screaming in desperation, some probably begging for their lives, and be so cold hearted as to pull the trigger, which certainly prompted more screams of terror and moans of pain, only to continue pulling the trigger and taking out three, four, six, ten children, possibly scrambling for their lives (or unable to move in their terror), and then twelve, fifteen, twenty and six adults, before turning one of the guns on himself?

Was it a mind that had lost all sense of value for life, like the Aztec civilization in Mexico, who would sacrifice tens of thousands of victims by ripping out their hearts and eating their flesh without much concern for their victims' lives? (Although, at least they thought they were offering sacrifices to a god; albeit the god of darkness)  Was there no hope in Lanza's life that he saw this as a way out?  Was there nothing to live for?  Perhaps, he saw this as a way of making a name for himself?  And, then the natural follow up question; what fault did the children have?  Was it revenge because the cold hearted killer felt slighted by his mother?

There is information that he was suffering from a mental disorder that the family didn't know how to deal with but, regardless of his motive or mental condition, as Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy stated so poignantly, "Evil visited this community today."

And, for anyone who believes in God, evil has a name. 

On my way home from work, after spending most of the morning and afternoon glued to the news, since I work in a TV newsroom, I heard a caller on the radio make an interesting observation.  He said, "We live in a godless society that has removed God from schools and is trying to remove God from every aspect of public life.  Can we be surprised by the results?"

Although the societal deterioration of American youth, which have become more and more atheistic and agnostic, according to polls in recent decades, may be an argument best left for another day, the fact is that where there is no faith, there is no hope.  And, where there is no hope, despair reigns; despair that can lead to indifference about life and death.

Nevertheless, as a parent of a kindergarten and second grade children myself, I couldn't help but be moved to tears several times during the day, as I watched the story unfold, and again during my drive home. 

I thought about how many of those parents, who sent their kids off to school that morning, and would never see them alive again (at least in this world), were looking forward to waking up Saturday morning and taking their child to a soccer game, or, as in my son's case, his first baseball practice?  How many of them had already gotten their kid's Christmas presents and were anxiously looking forward to seeing their face on Christmas morning?  Or, were trying to come up with a mischief for their child's Christmas elf that night?

The radio host put it bluntly, "Instead of wrapping Christmas gifts, they will be making funeral arrangements for their children."

How painfully sad and disheartening it must be.  It's hard for me to imagine.

Even President Barack Obama appeared moved during his afternoon press conference.  He said, "I know there's not a parent in America, who doesn't feel the same overwhelming grief that I do.  The majority of those who died were children.  Beautiful little kids between the ages of five and ten-years-old."

He was forced to pause, as he held back tears, and then continued, "They had their entire lives ahead of them; birthdays, graduations, wedding, kids of their own...  Our hearts are broken today for the parents and grandparents, sisters and brothers of those little children and for the families of the adults who were lost.  Our hearts are also broken for the parents of the survivors as well... May God bless the memory of the victims and, in the words of Scripture, Heal the brokenhearted and bind up their wounds. " 

And, Friday night, as investigators continued to comb through the carnage left by the killer and the parents and relatives of the victims waited to see their bodies, about a thousand faithful crowded into and outside of St. Rosa Lima Catholic Church, seeking solace, a shoulder to cry on, and a chance to worship, pray for the victims and their families, and, amidst apparent despair, ask for strength, healing and hope.

During the emotional service, where most of the congregation held hands during the Lord's Prayer, sang and candles lit for each of the victims, a letter by Pope Benedict XVI was read to the parish, promising prayers to help ease their grief, and, after a long and heart wrenching day full of pain, emotions and angst, they found a brief moment of peace.

There are no words or easy answers to explain the lingering question of why the gunman walked into that school to carry out his deranged plan and we may never know.  But, as in all tragedies, in due time, the questions start subsiding and the healing begins (although, I couldn't imagine getting through something like this without faith and the love of others).  

If there is any consolation for those of us who are parents, and may have to address the incident with our children in the near future, if we haven't already done so, it's that tragedies like this make us realize, albeit reluctantly, just how fragile and precious life really is.  Therefore, although easier said than done, we should live our lives and love our spouses, children and family as if each day was our last...

[pic credit: Justin Lane/ EPA; Shannon Hicks/ Newtown Bee; and Reuters]

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