News and Tribune


December 17, 2012

BEAM: Trying to make sense of the senseless

> SOUTHERN INDIANA — Bad things happen in this world; awful, gut wrenching tragedies that make you step back and question humanity. Such an unspeakable act took the lives of 26 women and children last Friday, leaving many Americans asking why such horror exists, and how, if possible, to prevent it.

I don’t know the answer to either of those questions. Brutality and loss of innocence has been around since the beginning of recorded history. Yet all the lessons of the past still can’t prepare us when the unimaginable hits so close to home.

With the 24-hour news cycle, you’d think we’d be immune to the shock. The fact that the loss still stuns us is a testament to our very humanity, the knowledge that our empathy and love live on despite constantly witnessing the devastation of wars, natural disasters and terrible diseases.

In our grief, we label and preach. We call the man who did this a monster. He wanted this fame, this negative notoriety. But as his own death shows, he was just a man; a coward who chose to slaughter innocent children rather than face his own inner demons. To call him anything else gives him power in his death, and we should refuse to grant him such a legacy. If we remember anything about this man, may it be so that we figure out how to stop others from following down the same path.  

Likewise, news agencies and television stations should not sensationalize this tragedy. Parents and families of those affected must be allowed to grieve without being the target of a dozen camera lenses. We, as a country, need to both mourn the victims and celebrate their lives in a manner that does not interfere with their privacy. The stories aired should be of substance, not illicit hearsay to boost ratings, but informative pieces that help everyday Americans attempt to make sense of such a senseless tragedy.

If anything, after time has passed, our nation must have an honest dialogue about how to prevent such violent acts in the future. It won’t be an easy fix. We continue to be divided about the underlying cause of events like these. Our government officials need to listen to all sides and find the best course of action that ensures public safety while balancing constitutional rights.

Even with all the legislation in the world, people will still try to commit atrocities. Our educational institutions must be prepared. In the interim, increased security protocols should be implemented at schools that include the locking of all external entrances during school hours and the mandatory identification of visitors before entry.

Although this might not prevent every attack, at the very least it will give staff and students valuable minutes to lock their doors and attempt to get to safety. A silent panic button or other type of alert system should also be available to essential personnel so if an emergency does arise, police as well as classrooms will be notified immediately.

As parents, the hardest part of coping with the events that happened last Friday is the feeling of helplessness. Although we try to protect our children every hour of every day, this reminds us they are still so very vulnerable. But those feelings of susceptibility should not get the best of us. We cannot turn into a populace that places fear above all else. This incident was an anomaly, a sick perversion of innocence. And while we take precautions to safeguard against this occurring again, our response should be tempered to allow our children the benefits of childhood.

When you see the photos of the 6- and 7-year-olds that were taken from us last Friday, you notice something striking. Each of the snapshots released showed a beautiful little face smiling. Every single photo conveyed joy and happiness and the unmistakable delight of being a kid.

During this time, our nation must not forget that joy and happiness of childhood. We need to cling to it, and share it with our little ones. As they grow older, memories will be composed of these. Those precious moments last through tragedy and pain.

Yes, bad things happen in this world. But so do good ones. May God grant all the families involved the ability to remember these good times so they may find some comfort amidst their grief.


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