The events of last Friday’s tragedy in Newtown are almost too awful to comprehend. How can anyone gun down innocent children and the people who teach and take care of them every day? How can anyone shoot his own mother before slaying all those other people? What must it be like to tell a child that their sibling or friend or teacher is gone forever? My heart goes out to all the families and communities involved. So much tragedy for one town to bear. My heart also goes out to the family and friends of the gunman.
Our town of Maplewood, NJ is similar to Newtown in terms of size and the fact that it’s also a beautiful small town that is an easy commute into NYC and acts as a magnet for families looking to raise their children in a safe, nurturing place. This is one of those events that really feels like it could have happened here. It turns out that school massacres common enough in this country that schools here practice code red lockdown drills regularly. I was shocked to discover this. I know that these mass shootings are relatively common – disturbingly so – but I’m shocked that we have moved our family to a place where our children will practice these drills.
They’ll watch their teachers lock the doors and they’ll hide under desks or in closets with their little friends. I’m sure they’ll find it a little exciting – what sort of break from routine isn’t? They’ll be told they’re practising how to act if a dangerous animal like a bear comes into their school. But someday they’ll know, just as they’ll know about Santa and the tooth fairy. The fabric of their childhood will hold memories practising how to hide from a potential gunman. And that makes me so sad.
And it makes me angry. Angry that it’s legal to buy semi-assault weapons that can allow someone to kill a huge number of people in a matter of minutes. Angry that the “right” to do this is something that is almost impossible to debate. Angry about how many more innocent lives must be lost to gun violence before laws can be strengthened. If this were any other safety issue – if bridges or buildings were collapsing as frequently as the number of mass shooting since Columbine – then I imagine there would be bipartisan action to solve the problem. I hope that American can have a mature debate about guns and how best to make this country safer for everyone living here. I hope there are no more tragedies like Newtown.