“The streets of heaven are too crowded with angels tonight. They’re our students and our teachers, and our parents and our friends.” -Josiah Bartlett
Tonight is a tragic night for too many families. It’s a tragedy for us all. When confronted with such grief, it always seems as if there is nothing I can say that even begins to offer any consolation or comfort. Probably because there is nothing that can comfort in the face of a loss so great.
There is so much I don’t know. “Why?” always tops the list in times like this. I don’t know the names of the ones we lost, or how we can ever be the same again. I don’t know anything about the person who did this. He may have been well-liked, or much-avoided. He may have been angry or sullen, or seemed like a nice guy. I don’t know.
I can guess a few things, however. One thing I can guess is that as he drove to the school today, he wasn’t thinking about the mother who tonight is sobbing in her only daughter’s room. He wasn’t thinking of the father who, this afternoon, had to explain the unexplainable to a toddler who wanted to know where her big brother had gone. He wasn’t thinking of dozens of Christmas presents that had been so lovingly selected, but will go forever unopened.
He did this the only way anyone can ever do such a thing as this–by denying the goodness and humanity that connects every one of us to every other one of us. Whether because of sickness of the mind or of the heart, or sheer force of evil will, he left his ability to feel empathy and humanity outside the door of that schoolhouse in Connecticut.
As we go forward we will hear more about the children who were ripped from us, and the “how”s and “why”s of the terrible deed. Our hearts and prayers will go out, and we will light candles and wish desperately that any such balm could slay the fearsome grief that even now is ripping holes in the hearts of the families of Newtown.
And I already hear it, on the television and the internet. People, made desperate by horror, asking how can we stop this from happening to our children. How could we do anything else in such a moment, but fall to our knees and ask, “Why?”
But then it starts. The talk of guns and rights and lock down procedures and concealed carry and mental illness and waiting periods and video games and…God it’s just pretty much the same debate we have every time this happens. Oregon, Aurora, Gabby Giffords. And all the same players seem to say the same thing.
But this time, I beg you, whether you’re a private citizen or a public figure, whether your discussion occurs in person, or over the great anonymizer of the internet–please remember that a man did this because he lost the ability to see those he was hurting as human.
As we go forward, see each other as beautiful and vulnerable and precious. Respect each other in your debates and replies. The person with whom you are exchanging grammatically incorrect invective over the internet–that person is connected to you in brotherhood just as much as the victims of this tragedy. When we deny the sacred humanity of one another, we profane ourselves.
Hold your loved ones tight. Breathe in the scent of your child’s hair, squeeze your spouse’s hand a little tighter, call your mother. But also remember that the way to honor those we lost, is to be honorable and good to each member of our human family.