Sandy Hook Elementary

This isn’t how I wanted to come back to blogging. I was hunkered down this morning trying to think of something irreverent to write when I saw the news. Newtown. Sandy Hook. Adam* Lanza. These words will be part of our lexicon for decades to come, forever putting to mind this terrible day. Our hearts will break again and again in the coming days as victims share their stories. Families will recount the tales of their lost children, the altered course of their lives. We will be grateful for the bravery of teachers who tried to protect their students. There should be no limit to compassion and sympathy for the families who lost so much today.

We have all witnessed too many incidents of spectacularly senseless violence, so we all know what comes next. The inevitable debate over gun control, school protections, and legislation. The logical reaction to something so irrational, arational, completely divorced from any kind of ration, is to figure out how we can make it stop and how we can send our children into the world every day. I understand that debate; I understand that people on both sides of it want to protect themselves.

As Brother Jon stated, perhaps now is not the time to have that debate; it is time for mourning. However, it is already out there, on Facebook, Twitter, and I am sure in thousands of private conversations. I believe it to be a means of feeling like we would have had some control over the situation. If only gun control laws were tighter, if only everyone carried guns; no matter what side of the fence you fall on, you believe that if only things were slightly different you could control the outcome if something like this happened in your corner of the world.

But what really caused this man to do such a terrible thing? There is no justification for his actions, nothing redeemable, and no way to really prevent it, as scary as that is. Perhaps our only method of shaping the future lies in addressing the root causes of violence in this world, rather than the tools used to carry it out. You don’t pick up a gun to harm someone if you’re not sick in your heart and your head.

*I had originally named Ryan Lanza, as it was reported this morning.



  1. Oh, it has started. All over my facebook and up and down the hall at my office. I’m not ready for these conversations yet. I’m not done mourning lost babies who will never say “I love you” to their parents again.

    Stuff like this makes my heart so heavy that I can’t function outside of must-hold-my-children mode. Then I feel so guilty for internalizing something so tragic that did NOT, thank you world, happen to me. I have no right to this pain or anger.

    That’s as much thought as I’ve managed to put together on this topic today. I’m hiding from social media for a bit.

    1. Steph, hugging your babies is the most sensible reaction to any of this. I can’t wait to go get mine either and hold them tight. People lost so much today. And I think you do have right to pain and anger; we should be outraged. Huge hugs coming your way.

    2. hi im from canada my name is tammy wallis i want to say im sorry for guys lost my son hes only 7 and heartbroken about this he wanted to send hes sorrys out to you guys and hes name is scott wallis and my other son is only 5 i cant imagine what would be like Losing someone so young like that god be with you guys we are all thinking of you in canada im from oshawa ont..

  2. I absolutely believe there is a way to prevent violence, because I’ve dedicated (part of) my life in doing so. It’s through education and community and mental health treatment…..etc.
    I also believe that talking about gun control and legislation, protection, prevention, etc. is probably the only way to honor the victims in this tragedy. We won’t be able to honor them with silence. So let’s talk about how to prevent violence and what warning signs we missed (because there always are warning signs) so that all those people didn’t die and suffer for nothing.

    1. Absolutely. There is so much discussion that needs to be had. And I also am writing emotionally today, so maybe not expressing that I think that gun control is definitely part of the discussion as well. But too often I think people focus on the weapon and not the social ills that lead people to violence. We know what they are, but so often as a society we don’t do enough to address them. I am glad that you are out there doing what you do to prevent it.

      1. I agree that too often people focus on the weapon. As humans, we’re so hard-wired to react to crises rather than work to prevent them, mostly because prevention is harder. I think the answer will ultimately lie in an “all of the above” approach with gun control reactive legislation (because no matter how you look at it, more guns leads to more death by guns), plus preventative education.

        1. It is so true that we’re reactive instead of proactive. And we tend to fixate on one solution that can be reduced to one sound byte or piece of legislation rather than address the complex nature of the problem.

    1. As I mentioned to Lyssa, I think gun control is important. No matter how much we do to address violence, the less guns the fewer incidents. I do come from a place that is very pro-gun, but the people generally need them for their livelihood, and I support that. But your average city dweller who buys all their meat from Whole Foods doesn’t really need an assault rifle.

  3. You said that perfectly. There will be a time, but not know like you stated so eloquently, about gun laws. For now, lets let the families, community and whole nation mourn this huge and senseless tragedy.

    1. I was really disheartened to see a kid with a microphone shoved in his face recounting what happened. What does that do for anyone? We are all going to get the official story as it unravels from the authorities in due time.

  4. Thanks for writing what I felt, but was unable to articulate. I work in an elementary school. I naively thought nothing like that could ever happen. Those little innocents. That’s all I can think…all those little innocents.

  5. Jen,
    Today, my son came back from school telling me he got into a fight… A first fight. Older kids. Two of them. He fought back. And I was proud of him. Not because he fought, but because he did what he could to get out of this situation. But I was also sad, because violence starts young… one of the kids has a history of violence. He was also worried about his dad’s reaction, really worried, which made me think there might have been violence home, and saddened me even more… We have to protect and love our children, and love. And love.
    Thank you for this post. Today is a day of mourning indeed.
    Your friend,

    1. Violence at home is one of the primary causes of troubled kids. If you feel powerless in your own life, you’re going to take control in whatever rudimentary way you know how. Good for Theo for defending himself, but I too feel sad for any kid who grows up believing that there’s no other way out. And this shooter, well god knows what was going on, but it is a stark reminder that the little things don’t matter, but love does.

  6. When I was in grade school, a teacher once said the key to life is to “eat or get eaten.” Pretty heavy stuff for 10-year-olds, and I think it speaks to where our society’s mentality is. Instead of asking, “Why do we ‘eat’ each other” we immediately figure out ways to protect ourselves from those who will. It’s like an inevitable conclusion that we’ve accepted. I do not accept that. I refuse to.

    1. I know plenty of people with that attitude. Eat or get eaten, pull yourself up by your bootstraps; the main message being that you are alone in this world and you have to do whatever you can to survive. But when things like this happen, I think we all recognize the importance of community and inclusion. It’s really the only way we thrive.
      Also, I would like to give that teacher a verbal dressing down for telling a 10 year old that, because JESUS CHRIST WHAT IS WRONG WITH PEOPLE?

      1. Oh, yes. I have twin boys that just turned 13 a couple of weeks ago. I don’t feel like a superhero. I feel like I’ve been repeatedly run over by a truck for the last 13 years.

  7. Thanks for a well-written and balanced post (I’m over via Clown on Fire’s FB update, by the way). I’ve reshared it on FB – hopefully more people will see it.

    As well as the children killed – the guy killed his own parents. What ‘crime’ did they commit, I wonder, to have brought into the world someone so unwell that he’d do this? The whole thing makes me shudder and I’m on the other side of the world in the UK. 😦

    1. Thank you for sharing it Val, and welcome here. I wish it were under happier circumstances.
      I imagine we’ll get all kind of sordid details about the shooter’s upbringing and state of mind and everything over the coming weeks. Truth be told, I don’t know how I feel; I don’t think anyone is to blame but the shooter, no matter what has come to pass in his life. He clearly lacked a mechanism in his brain that stopped him from hurting people and that is the most dangerous and terrifying thing in our society.

  8. Jen, thank you for writing this. You speak my own mind. I’ve been silent mostly because I cannot even fathom such anger and violence and sickness that would compel anyone to do such a thing. And we may never know the whys. Everytime there is a gun show in my community, I cringe – and while I’ve heard all the arguments – “guns don’t kill people, people do,” why do people feel that they need so many guns? Anyway, not explanation, just grief.

    1. So much grief. I keep typing out responses, but I don’t know what to say about it all; I think perhaps it’s just time to grieve and reflect and maybe a more coherent thought will come later.

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