Newtown will forever be ingrained into my memory. Why on Earth did so many little angels have to die? It pains me to think what the parents, family and community are going through at this time – and they will never be the same. We will never be the same. The ones left behind will need to do the grieving and coping. How will we all react in the future?
With perfect 20/20 backward looking vision, media and a lot of wise men / women seem to be finding a lot of answers as to what to do preventing tragedies like this from happening again. Once again and unfortunately, single dimensional answers and solutions will be sought.
In fact, I believe it will take a multi-pronged approach curbing a tragedy like this in the future. Much greater gun control than what we have nowadays would be awesome (what does one need an assault gun for anyway?). This measure alone will unlikely guarantee prevention of disasters like this. If someone is determined to hurt people he/ she will find a way to do so. Making it tougher to access guns – that ranges from getting them in the first place to safe storage – is a prudent step to make our lives a little safer. To me it is like having a sports car and being tempted to speed. With so much power at your finger tips you are bound to use it.
We will also need to look at our society. People in trouble can fly under the radar because we no longer have a tight knit society that looks out for one another. What is our community comprised of anymore? We congregate mostly at home with family, at work with other co-workers, and at church with fellow church goers – perhaps we have a few great neighbors. We are also stuck in traffic a lot, but where else do we really have a well working sense of community that provides a sense of belonging and inclusion? This would be the quint essential need for detecting the needs of people that could greatly benefit from our help. I do not know the answer to this question, but I cannot help but wonder if our lack of large scale compassion and empathy for people in our community isn’t at the core of the problem. Flipping this situation on its head could be part of the solution.
Schools and their administrators, police, and emergency personnel have done a great job learning from tragedies like Newtown. Partial and full lock down routines and drills have been implemented in many schools already. We seem to be on the correct path here.
Ironically, the school my children go to had a partial lock down within the hour of Newtown happening. It was totally unrelated and at first it took our breath away at home when we learned about this. It did provide us with an opportunity to speak with our kids about what had happened in Connecticut. They totally got the message as to why they train for learning about run-hide-fight. On one hand it is sad that it had to come this far, but on the other hand, I would rather they remember these three words and what they mean for years to come. They have and will continue saving lives.
Finally, we have to start with making a difference by reflecting on ourselves and how we can help make it possible to prevent shooting rampages altogether. How much more can I do? This may range from not buying guns in the first place, locking them away safely when you must have them, paying close attention to your family members to see if they need help, and finally being around for lending a helping hand or a shoulder to cry on when the worst thing happened anyway.
Little does this do today though. It will not bring the Newtown’s angels back. There is no answer that can possible explain the rhyme or reason why these young children had to die in this senseless crime. In fact, why do any nice people have to leave us way before they should? We will not find any answers. There is no score board that keeps a tally about how nice you are and if you “deserve” to live long and prosper. There is no possible earthly reason why 5 to 10 year old kids should lose their lives this young.
Dealing with the grief and coping is the most important thing we will need to focus on. Rabbi Harold Kushner wrote a fantastic book about this topic: “When bad things happen to good people”. I recommend it highly for anyone to read and taking it to heart. It offers consolation at times of great sorrow. His then three year old son had been diagnosed with a degenerative disease that he was not expected to survive above and beyond his teens. He managed to capture the essence of the senselessness of trying to understand the senselessness. Where there is no logic you will not be able to think any logic into it.
Another, great guide for helping children cope with tragedies may be found here National Association of School Psychologists.
Another favorite author of mine about grieving is Elisabeth Kübler Ross. She penned “On grief and grieving: Finding the meaning of grief through the five stages of loss”. In it she describes the five stages of dealing with loss. They are (in no particular order): Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. I have found that she did a great job describing our human grieving mechanism. Knowing that there is an algorithm we subconsciously use makes it the more powerful when you are aware of it. The more you know about this topic, the better you can use your time coping with the terrible loss.
I am praying for all the support in the world for any of the surviving victims and all the families that are caught in the wake of the aftermath. It is hard to believe now, but a lot of time will heal the wounds and letting us pass through this difficult time. A lot of time. For now it still renders me speechless and sad. Eric Clapton’s song “Tears in heaven” sums it up for me right now. His 4 year old son fell out of a 53rd floor in NYC in the early 90’s – another senseless loss of an angel.