The incomprehensible events that played out last week in Sandy Hook Elementary School have left a nation in horrified mourning.
Who among us has not pulled our precious children closer, wondered how we can ever explain to them the inexplicable. How can we ever protect them from such evil? How we can ever bear to let them out of our sight again?
For what shield have we to cling to and hold aloft, when such a person can live quietly among us, then explode with such insane and remorseless rage? What can we do to protect those we love — or even our belief in love — in a world that can spawn such evil?
We will not even speak the name of the monster, lest it was his purpose to make us think of him, remember him, fear him in the darkness he has left.
We would rather speak the name of Principal Dawn Hochsprung who devoted her life to children and died lunging at the gunman in a futile effort to protect them.
We would rather recall the courage of Victoria Soto who heard the shots and hid her first-graders in a closet, then died trying to protect them from the crazed gunman.
We would rather take comfort from thinking of school psychologist Mary Sherlach who died running toward the gunman, flinging herself at him to protect those children.
The only comfort in the face of the mindless enormity of this evil lies in learning about the love and hope and joy that emerges in the stories of the victims — the bright, beautiful, innocent, buoyant children, the loving families, the dedicated teachers.
We will never understand the twisted mind of the monster — what sick rage, what terrible resentment, what ravening madness drove him to this senseless act. Seeing the police in the hallway, he lunged into one last classroom and sprayed murder into one last cluster of terrified children. Then he killed himself, the only action of his that made any sense at all.
Yet we yearn to understand, so that we may protect ourselves — so that we may barter with madness, so that we may heed the warning signs. But we will never understand, for what sense can love ever make of madness?
We can wonder at the mother who would supply such a one with such a lethal arsenal. We can wonder at the refusal of politicians to ban the sale of assault rifles, brutally lethal ammunition and high-capacity magazines. We can wonder at the refusal to fund vital mental health programs which have been stripped from budgets leaving a tragic dearth of programs. But we cannot know whether any of those things could have averted this particular tragedy, this awful killing.
We come back finally to Hochsprung and Sherlach and Soto. We come back finally to the parents in the midst of their inconsolable grief who thanked the police and paramedics and teachers. We come back to Olivia Rose Engle who made silly faces and Josephine Gay who loved the color purple and Jessie Lewis who was learning to ride, and Anna Marquez-Green whose mother said “Anna has beat us all to paradise,” and James Mattioli who loved the whole idea of a googolplex, and Emilie Parker quick to try any new thing — except food, and Jack Pinto who idolized NY Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz, and Jessica Rekos who adored everything about horses, and teacher Lauren Gabrielle Rousseau who yearned to be a teacher all her life and said her first year at Sandy Hook was the best year of her life.
These names we will remember.
This love we will recall.
For their courage must give us hope.
Else how can we stand against such darkness?