Yesterday was one of those days that will live on throughout our life, as we will never forget where we were when we heard the awful news. There have been several in my life of almost 60 years. I can tell you where I was when I heard that President Kennedy had been assassinated, the Challenger exploded, and the planes hit the twin towers, Columbine, and now Sandy Hook Elementary. Each of us has our own reaction to tragedy. Mine yesterday was overwhelming grief. I work in a classroom of precious small children each day and the events in Newtown were the nightmare of every teacher.
There seems to be a need to place blame when something like this happens. We lose sight of the fact that a single mentally ill person committed the unthinkable and that there was little any of us could have done to prevent it. Sadly, the blamed are often family, coworkers, and first responders who ultimately bear the greatest grief and guilt. I hope that as this latest horrific act of violence settles, we as people, start to consider how society itself, is perhaps the problem.
When I was a young child, most television shows were about cowboys and animals. They evolved into weekly programs about “Leave it to Beaver” type family life. As I grew older, there were many about doctors and hospitals. Turn on the TV now and you will find shows about violence and crime every night of the week. I call them “murder” shows. Admittedly, they captured my interest for a time, as it was interesting to learn how crimes were solved and to watch the investigators figure out the “criminal mind”. I no longer can watch them. There have been too many stories in the news that read like a script from one of those shows. The recent murder of a little girl in the Denver area was one such story. A young person murdered her and I couldn’t help but think that he might have learned his crime from watching “murder” shows on television. But we, in fact, are becoming desensitized to violence as a society. I cringe every time a six or seven year old in my class enthusiastically describes a violent video game or movie, telling of shooting enemies and bad guys.
When random acts of violence take place in our nation, we seem to crave news about them. The television is taken over by live reports, interviews with anyone who will speak, and the reflections of an unending number of experts. The nonstop reporting and constant visual reminders compound our grief. It is hard to escape that from a distance, and I can’t imagine how that would feel if you were an actual victim or family member. We have a family tie to Columbine and I can tell you personally that the media keeps that pain alive for him constantly. There was footage from Columbine shown yesterday during the Sandy Hook Elementary reporting! I think the worst moment came when they began interviewing young children. I heard a reporter ask a child, “How many shots did you hear?” I wanted to reach through the screen and grab the reporter by the collar! We need to know… we need to understand… we need a way to help those who are victims. We do not need to have our lives taken over by a steady flow of details and sensationalized sadness.
Rather than spending time trying to place blame or becoming depressed by the reports on television over the next days and weeks, we all need to hug our children, bake cookies, read them stories, and preserve their innocence. Teach them about goodness and kindness. Find a way to do something kind for someone else. Turn off your television.
May God bless the grieving people in Newtown, Connecticut. We are all so sorry….